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Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

An inventory of 126,000 drums of low- and medium level radioactive waste, placed in the former Asse salt mine in Lower Saxony between 1967 and 1978, will be brought to the surface and reconditioned if necessary. No final decision has been made about where to move the waste.

WISE Amsterdam - Wolfram Koenig, president of the German Federal Radiation Protection Agency, BFS, and Norbert Roettgen, since last fall Germany’s federal nuclear regulator and in charge of the Federal Ministry of Environment & Nuclear Safety, BMU, made statements mid January indicating they both agreed that retrieving the waste was the best option. During 2009, BFS internally evaluated several options for decommissioning and closing the Asse repository. The office also considered moving the waste to 1,000 meters underground at Asse or filling the mine with water and sealing it, but decided that removing it was the safest option for the long term. Koenig said the operation would be a "great scientific and technical challenge," with the BfS planning to present soon a concept on how best to proceed.

The German section of Friends of the Earth, BUND, said it was unclear where the waste will go once extracted from Asse. But press reports said that it would be stored in an old iron ore mine called Konrad Shaft near Salzgitter, which would then become Germany's first permanent storage site for nuclear waste.

Asse was commissioned in the 1960s by federal and state government agencies, without a formal nuclear licensing process, on behalf of waste producers. According to some German waste management officials, unless the federal government took control of the project, some utilities would not have agreed to commit themselves to invest in Germany’s initial nuclear power plants.

Extracting the waste is expected to be a laborious, hazardous and expensive operation. According to BFS officials, retrieving all the waste would take about a decade and cost at least 2 billion Euro (US$ 2.9 billion), while press reports mention it could cost as much as four billion Euro (US$ 5.8 billion). BFS is also preparing "emergency measures" in case of an enormous increase of flooding, and if it is determined that some of the containers are dangerously corroded, then removing them will be reconsidered.

It is uncertain who will ultimately pay for retrieving, repackaging, and disposing of the Asse waste. Before the last federal coalition government was voted out of power in September, then BMU-minister Sigmar Gabriel asserted that waste producers, including power reactor owners, should pay for the decommissioning of the site. But reactor owners of course disagreed, saying that, since the Asse project was led by the federal government’s research ministry, the federal government should pay for it. Last week, Germany’s research minister, Annette Schavan, said in interviews that the Asse mine was “more intensively used” by industry than would have been justified had Asse been solely a research project.

The Asse mine in central Germany, used to store waste from 1967 to 1978 between 500 and 700 meters underground, has been known for some time to be leaking and in danger of partial collapse. At first the barrels were stacked in an orderly manner, but in the 1970s they were simply dumped in and covered with the salt grit, with the result that many are now corroded and dented.

Although Asse is a disposal site for low- and intermediate level waste, that does not automatically mean there are no highly radioactive substances. Last August it was published that in the Asse pit, around 28 kg of plutonium, more than three times as much as previously assumed, is evidently being stored.

Sources: Parliamentary questions, 24 November 2009, European Parliament /  AFP, 15 January 2010 / Nucleonics Week, 21 January 2010

Contact: AG Schacht Konrad. Konrad-Haus, Bleckenstedter Str. 14a, 38239 Salzgitter, Germany, Email: , Web:

Exactly 200 issues ago, in issue 503 of this magazine (which was called the WISE News Communique by then), we published the following In Brief.

Asse storage is leaking. From 1967 to 1977, low and intermediate radioactive waste was stored in the former salt mine in Asse, Lower Saxony, Germany. There it is supposed to be stored in dry salt. Now water is seeping through to the waste drums. The environmental ministry of Lower Saxony confirmed the leakage on November 6.
At present about 10 cubic meters of water is pumped away daily. The drums are in danger of rusting. Experts are trying to find solutions to this problem. Since 1995 salt from another Kali-mine close to Hannover has been added to the Asse mine to cover the waste. The leakage of the soapy water (alkaline solution) had first been discovered in 1991, and from 1993 on, it slowly increased. But the environment ministry isn't yet considering 'evacuating' the 127,000 drums to another site. This would only be considered in a "worst case" scenario. Instead, it should be tried to make Asse water-proof again.

From WISE News Communique 503; 4 December 1998



Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The last 'significant' amount of highly enriched uranium (HEU) research reactor fuel in Turkey has now been returned to the USA for secure storage, the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced.

WISE Amsterdam - The return of the 5.4 kilograms of HEU fuel is part of the NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which the NNSA claims has now removed all significant amounts of HEU from 17 countries. According to NNSA, the removal of HEU eliminates potentially weapons-usable material from civilian sites, resulting in a permanent threat reduction.

The material was removed in cooperation with the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK) and the Cekmece Nuclear Research and Training Center. TAEK took delivery of the French-made low-enriched fuel it needs to power its reactor in November 2009, and the HEU fuel was formally shipped on 14 December that year. The HEU fuel was packaged into an internationally licensed transport cask before being transported under armed convoy from the reactor site to a nearby port for onward shipment to the USA.

The amount of fuel needed to power a research reactor can be measured in terms of kilograms of uranium rather than the tonnes of low-enriched uranium fuel needed in a power reactor but it is higher in fissile uranium-235. This, in turn, makes it a potential nuclear proliferation risk - HEU fuel could theoretically be used to make a crude nuclear weapon. Since the late 1970s, international efforts have been under way to ensure that the world's research reactors would use fuel enriched to lower levels.

Most research reactors using HEU fuel were supplied by the USA and Russia. In 1978 the USA launched its Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) program, with the aim of converting reactors using HEU fuels to lower enrichment fuels where technically feasible or practical. Today, RETR comes under the auspices of the NNSA's GTRI, which works to remove Russian- and US-origin fresh and used HEU fuel to its country of origin.

Israeli HEU returned too
The NNSA announcement trumpeting the return of the Turkish HEU omitted to mention a simultaneous delivery of US-origin HEU fuel from Israel. As reported in Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground blog, the NNSA confirmed a report by Friends of the Earth's (FoE's) Tom Clements that a shipment of 102 used fuel assemblies from Israel had been returned to the USA under the GTRI. Munger noted that an NNSA spokesperson confirmed that the Israeli shipment arrived at Savannah River in January, "in conjunction with a US-origin fuel return from Turkey," but would give no further details. It would seem likely that the material came from the 5 kWt Israeli Research Reactor 1 (IRR-1), which was built under the Atoms for Peace program and has been operational since 1960. A total of 19 kg HEU reactor fuel was shipped from the US to Israel from 1960-1975. The majority of the material was fuel for the IRR-1. This pool-type reactor began operating in June 1960 and is used for on-line isotope seperation, training and activation analyses.

The Israeli Research Reactor-1 is located at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center (about 35 miles south of Tel Aviv) and was also purchased from the U.S. The center was built in the late 1950s. According to NTI Israel profile it is widely believed that the main function of Soreq research center in recent years has been to conduct nuclear weapon research and design.

Conversion of reactors to run on lower enriched fuel has necessitated the development of suitable fuels for the different specifications of reactors around the world, work which is still ongoing. According to NNSA estimates, some 78 research reactors have a defence-related mission or are of a unique design and are not convertible to LEU fuels. The NNSA aims to have all the other reactors using HEU fuels converted to LEU by 2018.

Source: World Nuclear News, 14 January 2010 / Appendix I, Agreements with foreign countries. Available at: / NTI Israel country profile:

Contact: WISE International


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Non-proven Korean reactors for Middle-East.

A South Korean consortium has beaten French, US and Japanese competition and won a US$20.4 billion contract for developing a civilian nuclear program for the United Arab Emirates. Lead by KEPCO the groups also includes companies as Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Samsung and Doosan Heavy Industries. Korea Nuclear Fuel Co, or KNF, will provide the nuclear fuel while Korea Plant Service and Engineering Co (KPS) will be involved in plant maintenance. Non-Korean companies involved in the Kepco team include Westinghouse of the US and Toshiba of Japan. Kepco is owned by the South Korean government and is the world’s third largest nuclear energy businesses. The other bidders in the year-long process included a consortium of French companies – Areva, Total and GDF Suez – by many seen as the most likely winner of the tender - and a third consortium of US and Japanese companies, including General Electric and Hitachi. Loss of the nuclear reactor contract is a major blow to especially the French nuclear industry. French President Sarkozy has extensively been traveling the Middle East , including the UAE in an attempt to bring new orders back home to the state-owned Areva.

The UAE is hoping to become the first Arab Gulf state to develop a civilian nuclear program and the contract involves the design and construction of four 1,400 megawatt units of the APR1400-type, Generation III units. Design was developed by the Korean nuclear industry under the leadership of Kepco over a period of 10 years beginning 1992. The first of the APR1,400 units, Shin-Kori units 3 and 4, are now under construction, having obtained a construction permit from the Korean regulatory authority. Shin-Kori unit 3 is scheduled to be connected to Korea’s grid by 2013. According to the UAE nuclear safety regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), Kepco will construct plants that are essentially the same as the “reference plants,” but supplemented with changes required to adapt to UAE climactic conditions and any specific requirements of the UAE.

The UAE hopes the first of its nuclear units will begin producing electricity to its grid in 2017, with the other three being completed in 2020. In spite of being the world’s third largest oil exporter and home to the world’s fifth largest proven natural gas reserves, the UAE is already a net importer of gas to fuel industries and power stations. Demand for electricity in the UAE is currently about 15 GWe, but is projected to nearly triple in just 12 years. Natural gas is the fuel of choice for peak power and half of base load demand in the UAE. Oil provides the rest. No coal is burned in the UAE for electricity. The heart of the UAE base load energy plan is to swap out the natural gas plants for nuclear energy to power water desalinization and electricity for household and industrial use.

Sources: / Financial Times, 27 December 2009 / Khaleej Times, 28 December 2009

England: Tories: We will not build nuclear power stations if elected.

Political Parties not in the government have to speak out against the ruling parties to show they are in opposition. Sometimes that mechanism has strange consequences. The English Conservative Party is a well known proponent of nuclear power. But since the ruling Labour Party shows some dedication to build nuclear reactors, the Tories, changed position. Well, it seems… Early December, the green adviser of Tory leader David Cameron has thrown more doubt on where the party stands over nuclear power after declaring no new stations would be built under a Tory government. Zac Goldsmith, one of Mr Cameron’s closest advisers on the environment, insisted no new nuclear power stations would be built if the Conservatives were to win the next general election. He said Tory policy “was to give a green light to nuclear power as long as there is no call on the taxpayer, not just in terms of building, but maintenance, security and disposal of waste." His next sentence was a very surprising one: "In the history of nuclear power there has never been a station built without huge use of taxpayers’ subsidy.”

Jamie Reed, Labour member of parliament for Copeland (Cunbria) reacted: “This is not a policy, it is ignorant, confused nonsense and is in effect an anti-nuclear policy. David Cameron is all over the place on nuclear. He has stated that it is a “last resort”. And concluding: "With others I have worked hard to build a cross party consensus and I am saddened by the fact that David Cameron and Zac Goldsmith remain anti nuclear." Well, that has to be seen, but let's hope that is still the case when they win the next elections.

Source: North West Evening Mail (UK), 2 December 2009

Areva confirms Greenpeace’s alarming radiation findings in Niger.

Following Greenpeace’s report of radioactive hotspots in the uranium mining city Akokan in Niger, Areva has confirmed that the radioactivity in the streets of Akokan was unacceptably high. Under pressure from civil society the French nuclear company has taken action to clean up the spots indicated by Greenpeace. “Areva’s reaction supports our call for a comprehensive, transparent and independent environmental assessment of the area,” said Dr. Rianne Teule of Greenpeace International. “We are glad that the streets of Akokan have been partly cleaned up, but remain very concerned that  other problems cannot be ruled out without a comprehensive study. Decades of uranium mining have created radioactive dangers to the people of Akokan, a typical example of environmental and health threats posed by the nuclear industry.”

A Greenpeace team visited Areva’s two uranium mines in Niger at the beginning of November 2009. During this visit Greenpeace identified dangerous levels of radiation in the streets of Akokan, at one location up to 500 times higher than the normal background levels. Areva had earlier declared the streets safe. A comprehensive report on Greenpeace’s findings will be published in early 2010.

Source: Greenpeace International Press release, 5 January 2010

Preparations for first ever High Level Waste shipment from Sellafield.

More than ten years later than originally scheduled, the first shipment of vitrified High Level Waste (HLW) is expected to be shipped from Sellafield to Japan early in 2010. Sellafield Ltd announced November 25, that the first HLW return shipment to Japan was expected to be completed by next in March. Depending on which of three recognised sea routes was selected, the return could take up to 6 weeks – indicating a departure from the UK sometime in January 2010. It is likely that the HLW, loaded into transport containers, will be sent from Sellafield to Barrow docks by rail and loaded onto the Pacific Sandpiper for the 25,000km voyage to Japan.

The upcoming shipment will be the first repatriation of any category of foreign waste to overseas customers – despite Japanese and other wastes having been produced for more than thirty years by the reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel at Sellafield’s Magnox and THORP plant. Whilst  overseas reprocessing contracts signed after 1976 required customers to take back all reprocessing wastes, a system of ‘waste substitution’ was agreed between Government, Sellafield and customers in 2004 whereby only HLW would be returned – leaving the significantly larger volumes of Intermediate and Low level wastes to be disposed of in the UK. To compensate for the amount of radioactivity in those wastes that will remain in the UK, a ‘radiological equivalance’ will be returned to overseas customers in the form of additional HLW. For Japan, whose utilities will receive around 850 canisters of HLW directly resulting from their reprocessing contracts, the equivalence amounts to an extra 150 canisters, making 1000 in total.

Sellafield owners NDA have said that an overall total of 1850 HLW canisters are due to be repatriated to Japanese and European customers over the coming years. INS has confirmed that following the first return to Japan, the next HLW shipment will be to the Netherlands.

Source: CORE Briefing, 16 November 2009

Unlimited licence for Swiss nuclear power plant.

An environment ministry decision to grant an unlimited licence to the Mühleberg nuclear power station has prompted mixed reaction.The operators of the Mühleberg plant (outside the capital Bern) said they welcomed the move because it finally puts all five nuclear power stations in Switzerland on par with each other. The Mühleberg facility became operational in 1972 and had a licence that was due to run out by the end of 2012. An application has already been handed in to built a new reactor in ten years’ time.
Critics of nuclear power described the decision as irresponsible and scandalous. They pledged to challenge it in court. The Swiss Energy Foundation said the Mühleberg plant had safety problems. The technology used at the plant is also outdated according to the centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party. In November 2009 voters in canton Vaud came out against extending the life of the plant beyond 2012. The governments in four other cantons which are customers of the plant were divided.
Source:, 22 December 2009

Canada: Sept-Iles residents want Quebec to halt uranium mining.

Some 1,000 protesters gathered on December 13, in the town of Sept-Iles about 900 kilometers northwest of Montreal on the North Shore to protest against uranium mining. The residents continue to pressure Quebec to slap a moratorium on uranium exploration in the province, despite the government's promise to open a debate on health and safety concerns  surrounding the industry. The protesters were backing 20 doctors who threatened to quit their practice in the remote Quebec region because of plans to build a uranium mine nearby. "We're showing our support," said Marc Fafard, spokesman and founder of a grassroots group opposed to uranium mining in the province. "We want to show how proud we are of the doctors to have finally made this a provincial debate. Like it should be." The province's head of public health, Dr. Alain Poirier, met with the doctors the week before the demonstration and announced Quebec would create a special committee to study the potential risks of uranium exploration and mining on health and safety. The uranium debate has been raging in the region for more than a year, since mining company Terra Ventures Inc. began exploration for low-grade uranium near Lac Kachiwiss, some 20 kilometers north of Sept-Iles. Residents have concerns over the health and safety of uranium mines and fear the mining waste could contaminate local drinking water.

Source: The Canadian Press, 13 December 2009

Canada: Province threatens lawsuit over cost overruns. 

The Province of New Brunswick said Canada's federal government should cover cost overruns on the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant or the province will sue Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., according to the Canadian press reports. AECL is the government-controlled "crown corporation" that is performing the Can$ 1.4 billion (US$1.36 billion, 937 million Euro) renovation of Atlantic Canada's only nuclear power plant. The project was supposed to have been completed last September, but is running 18 months behind schedule. If the project remains behind schedule, officials say it could cost the province about $400 million (US$387 million) to buy replacement power. Under a memorandum of understanding signed last fall, New Brunswick won't be paid for Point Lepreau until the refurbishment is complete and the plant is generating electricity. This is the first refurbishment of a Candu-6 reactor and AECL is hoping to use Point Lepreau as a showcase to refurbish similar reactors around the world. In November two units of the Bruce A nuclear plant (earlier CANDU-types) have been given regulatory approval for refuelling and restart  after being out of service for more than a decade. Their major refurbishment (amongst others the replacement of fuel channels and steam generators) was over budget for almost Can$ 1 billion and 12 months behind schedule. (Read more in 'Restart go-ahead for refurbished Canadian units'; Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009)

Sources: Power Engineering International, 11 January 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009

Heavy forging facility in India. 

Construction has started on a steel manufacturing and heavy forging facility in Gujarat state, India, as part of a joint venture between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T). During a ceremony on 9 January the foundation stone for the new facility was laid at L&T's existing manufacturing site in Hazira, Surat. The new facility will have a dedicated steel melt shop producing ingots of up to 600 tons, as well as a heavy forge shop equipped with a forging press that will be amongst the largest in the world. The facility will supply finished forgings for nuclear reactors, pressurizers and steam generators, and also heavy forgings for critical equipment in the hydrocarbon sector and for thermal power plants. L&T is India's biggest engineering and construction company and makes reactor pressure vessels for the country's pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs), fast breeder reactor and steam generators. It has been involved in supply of equipment, systems and services for nearly all the PHWRs that have been indigenously built, including the manufacture of calandrias, end-shields, steam generators, primary heat transport system and heat exchangers.

The capacity worldwide for heavy forging for nuclear reactors is very limited. At least in the short term, only one facility in the world, Japan Steel Works, can cast large forgings for certain reactor pressure vessels. JSW is aiming to produce sufficient forgings to supply theequivalent of about 8.5 sets a year by 2010 and the maximum ingot size is to be increased to 650 t.. The problem is the term “equivalent” because it is unclear how much of the forging capacity is dedicated in practice to new nuclear projects. JSW also supplies, for example, about 100 forgings a year for fossil fuel turbine and generator rotors to China alone.

Sources: World Nuclear news, 11 January 2010 / World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2009, M. Schneider, S. Thomas, A. Froggatt, D. Koplow

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Italian activists continue the anti-nuclear struggle.
“Ready to win again against Nuclear!” With this slogan Italian anti-nuclear activists organized on October 31, a new demonstration in the village of Montalto di Castro against the government, that intends to build eight new reactors in the country. This in spite of the 1987 referendum that succeeded in closing all existing nuclear plants. “In the late 80s Montalto was one of the locations chosen for a nuclear plant” reminds Legambiente, the association that promoted the demonstration, “but thanks to the referendum victory environmentalists managed to stop any project”. Today this little village situated in between Rome and Florence is again under the threat of nuclear. Its name recently appeared together with other 9 sites in an informal list indicating the places suitable for the authorities to host nuclear plants.

Legambiente, 4 November 2009

U.K.: Waste to stay at Dounreay?
The Scottish Government is considering allowing foreign intermediate level reprocessing wastes to remain at Dounreay instead of being return to the overseas customers. Instead vitrified high-level waste from Sellafield, contained in glass blocks, would be returned to the Dounreay customers. Until now Dounreay has insisted the wastes, from reprocessing overseas highly-enriched uranium spent fuel, would be sent back to the country of origin. The wastes have been mixed with concrete, like other wastes at the site, and there are about 500 drums weighting around 625 tonnes. Documents released under Freedom of Information Act show the Scottish Government favours the 'waste substitution' proposals and a public consultation is expected before the end of the year. There has already been a consultation on a 'waste substitution' policy for Sellafield's wastes and this has been approved by the Westminster government. The Dounreay proposal has been criticised as turning Scotland into a "nuclear dumping ground", in the words of Green MSP Patrick Garvie. The future of the overseas low level reprocessing wastes is uncertain, although it will probably also remain at Dounreay. In the past spent fuel from Dounreay has been sent to Sellafield for reprocessing, so the site already holds some wastes from the Scottish plant.

N-Base Briefing 630, 27 October 2009

DPRK: more Pu-production for n-weapons.
On November 2, North Korea’s official news agency, K.C.N.A., announced that the country completed reprocessing the 8,000 fuel rods unloaded from its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, two months ago and had made “significant achievements” in turning the plutonium into an atomic bomb. In early September, North Korea had told the United Nations Security Council that it was in the “final phase” of reprocessing the 8,000 rods and was “weaponizing” plutonium extracted from the rods. With this announcement North Korea put further pressure on the United States to start bilateral talks. “We have no option but to strengthen our self-defense nuclear deterrent in the face of increasing nuclear threats and military provocations from hostile forces,” the news agency said. North Korea conducted underground nuclear tests in October 2006 and in May this year. In April, it also test-fired a long-range rocket. North Korea has also said it was also enriching uranium. Highly-enriched uranium would give it another route to build nuclear bombs

The figure on this page shows background information on bare critical masses for some key fissile isotopes. A bare critical mass is the spherical mass of fissile metal barely large enough to sustain a fission chain reaction in the absence of any material around it. Uranium-235 and plutonium-239 are the key chain-reacting isotopes in highly enriched uranium and plutonium respectively. Uranium-233, neptunium-237 and americium-241 are, like plutonium-239, reactor-made fissile isotopes and could potentially be used to make nuclear weapons but have not, to our knowledge, been used to make other than experimental devices. (source: Global Fissile Material Report 2009, October 2009)

New York Times, 3 November 2009

U.K. Submarine radioactive wastes.
Up to five sites in Scotland have been considered by the Ministry of Defence for storing radioactive waste from decommissioned nuclear submarines - including Dounreay in Caithness, according to documents obtained by the Sunday Herald. In total 12 possible storage sites in the UK have been considered by the MoD.  There are already 15 decommissioning submarines lying at Rosyth or Devonport and a further 12 are due to leave active service by 2040. Rosyth and Devonport will be used to cut up and dismantle the submarines, but the MoD's problem is what to do with the waste, especially the large reactor compartments which are the most heavily contaminated. In Scotland the MoD is apparently considering Dounreay, Faslane, Coulport, Rosyth and Hunterston. Among possible sites in the England are Devonport, Aldermaston and Burghfield.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has warned that use of many of the sites would be "contentious". Highland Council, for example, is opposed to any non-Dounreay wastes being taken to the site and this is included in planning conditions for the new low level facility.

N-Base Briefing 631, 4 November 2009

Austrian courts cannot shut Temelin.
The Austrian region of Oberoesterreich, backed by a number of local landowners, is not entitled to sue for the closure of Czech Temelin nuclear power plant, the European Court of Justice, Europe's highest court, ruled on October 27. The case had been brought under an Austrian law that states a landowner can prohibit his neighbor from causing nuisance emanating from the latter's land if it exceeds normal local levels and significantly interferes with the usual use of the land. If the nuisance is caused by an officially authorized installation, the landowner is entitled to bring court proceedings for compensation.

 In a bid to close the Temelin plant, the Land Oberösterreich (Province of Upper Austria) made an application under this law to the Landesgericht Linz (Linz Regional Court), claiming that ionizing radiation and the risk of an accident was spoiling use of its agricultural land. Oberoesterreich owns an agricultural school.

However, the regional court has now been told it has no power over organizations operating in another EU member state, after it sought clarification from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In a statement, the ECJ said: "Austria cannot justify the discrimination practiced in respect of the official authorization granted in the Czech Republic for the operation of the Temelin nuclear power plant on the ground that it is necessary for protecting life, public health, the environment or property rights."

Reuters, 27 October 2009 / World Nuclear news, 27 October 2009

Iraq Plans New Nuclear Reactor Program.
The Iraqi government has approached the French nuclear industry about rebuilding at least one of the reactors that was bombed at the start of the first Gulf war. The government has also contacted the International Atomic Energy Agency and United Nations to seek ways around resolutions that ban Iraq’s re-entry into the nuclear field.

Iraqi Science and Technology Minister Raid Fahmi has insisted that a new Iraqi nuclear program would be solely for peaceful applications, “including the health sector, agriculture...and water treatment.”

However, many people fear that a nuclear reactor would be a tempting target for those who wish to cause significant death and destruction. Additionally, after widespread looting during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, much nuclear material remains missing from the site of the Tuwaitha nuclear research center.

The Guardian (UK), 27 October 2009

Covert network UK's nuclear police.
The UK's nuclear police force carries out surveillance on anti-nuclear activity and also uses informers. Details of the work of the 750-strong Civil Nuclear constabulary (CNC) are revealed in documents seen by the Guardian and in reports from the official watchdog released under Freedom of Information. The role of the CNC is to protect the UK's civil nuclear sites and guard nuclear material when it is transported by ship, rail, sea or air - including shipments to Japan and Europe.

However, the CNC has the power to use informers or infiltrate organisations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Access to data such as phone numbers and email address is also available to the CNC. The watchdog for RIPA, Sir Christopher Rose, says the aims of the CNC ares to counter the threat from terrorism and "public disquiet over nuclear matters". He said the level of CNC surveillance was "relatively modest".

N-Base Briefing 630, 27 October 2009

EDF (not) out of U.S.A.?
There were some press-reports (rumours) coming out of France that said the new EDF CEO Henri Proglio wanted an out of the deal with Constellation Energy in Maryland that would solidify there commitment to build a new nuclear power plant in Maryland U.S.A. However, the reports turned out to be no more than rumours, because, the order on the deal was issued on Friday October 30 -approved with conditions- Constellation's board of directors promptly approved the deal and (state-owned) EDF's board followed suit. One of the terms is that EDF will establish a headquarters in Maryland. Looks like they are there to stay -at least for now. 

Ratings downgrades nearly pushed Constellation into bankruptcy last year, but the company agreed to merge with MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. Constellation later ended that agreement in favor of the EDF deal, which, many people say, does not represent the best interests of consumers.

Breakingviews, 2 November 2009 / Public Citizen Energy Program, Email 5 November 2009

Increase in cancer for males exposed to above ground N-Tests.
A new study by the Radiation and Public Health Project reveals a 50% increase in cancer rates for boys who were exposed to above ground nuclear tests during the 1950s and early 1960s.  More than 100 nuclear bombs were detonated in the atmosphere over the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1962, which emitted radioactive Iodine-131, Strontium-90 and other toxic materials.  The results are based on analyses for Strontium-90 in baby teeth that were stored for over three decades at the University of Washington in St. Louis.  The baby teeth were collected through a program where children were given a little button with a gap tooth smiling boy that said, "I gave my tooth to science", in exchange for their tooth. The Radiation and Public Health Project is a nonprofit educational and scientific organization, established by scientists and physicians dedicated to understanding the relationships between low-level radiation and public health.

The Project said that the study has groundbreaking potential; declaring little information  exists on harm from Nevada above-ground nuclear weapons testing.  In 1997 and 2003, the federal government produced reports downplaying the human health impacts from exposure to the fallout. In his new book, 'Radioactive Baby Teeth: The Cancer Link,' Mangano describes the journey and how exposure to Strontium-90 increases the risk of childhood cancer. The first chapter may be downloaded at

CCNS News Update, 23 October 2009

Restart go-ahead for refurbished Canadian units. Two reactors at Canada's Bruce A nuclear power plant that have been out of service for over a decade have been given regulatory approval for refuelling and restart.
Units 1 and 2 at the Bruce A plant have been undergoing a major refurbishment to replace their fuel channels and steam generators plus upgrade ancillary systems to current standards. The announcement by regulator CNSC that refuelling can go ahead means the project looks to be on line for the projected 2010 restarts.

Units 1 and 2 at the four-unit Bruce A plant started up in 1977, but unit 2 was shut down in 1995 because a steam generator suffered corrosion after a lead shielding blanket used during maintenance was mistakenly left inside. In the late 1990s then-owner Ontario Hydro decided to lay up all four units at the plant to concentrate resources on other reactors in its fleet, and unit 1 was taken out of service in December 1997 with units 3 and 4 in following in 1998. The four units at sister power station Bruce B continued to operate. Bruce Power took over the operations of both Bruce plants from Ontario Hydro in 2001 and restarted units 3 and 4 by early 2004. Bruce A units 3 and 4 are likely to undergo a similar refurbishment once units 1 and 2 are back in operation.

Bruce Power decided to withdraw its application for a third nuclear power station at Bruce in July, saying it would focus on the refurbishment of the existing Bruce plants rather than building Bruce C. It also announced it was scrapping plans for a second new nuclear plant at Nanticoke in Ontario. On June 29, the government in Ontario announced that it has suspended the procurement of two new reactors for the Darlington nuclear site: the bids were 'shockingly high' (see Nuclear Monitor, 691, 16 July 2009)

World Nuclear News, 3 November 2009

US nuclear industry calls for more federal support.
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which represents the nuclear industry in the US, is calling for a comprehensive package of federal policies, financing and tax incentives to support a major expansion. The NEI wants to see the creation of a Clean Energy Deployment Administration to act as a permanent financing mechanism for new plants. It is also calling for significant tax incentives to support industry development.

However, the Union of Concerned Scientists says the plans amount to a request for US$100 billion (Euro 67 bn) in new federal loan guarantees on top of the US$110 billion loan guarantees already agreed by Congress. “It is truly staggering that an industry this big and this mature can claim to need so much government help to survive and thrive in a world in which technologies that don’t emit global warming pollution will benefit,” says Ellen Vancko of the UCS. “If the nuclear industry gets its way, Christmas will come early this year – thanks to US taxpayers.”
Energy efficiency news, 2 November 2009

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

U.K. wants to sell Urenco stake.
The U.K. Government’s stake in Urenco, which owns nuclear enrichment plants in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, will be sold off to help to repay the country’s escalating debt mountain, the Prime Minister announced on October 12. The plan to sell off the Government’s one-third stake in Urenco could be the most controversial. The stake is controlled by the Shareholder Executive, which was created in 2003 to better manage the Government’s performance as a shareholder in businesses. The other two thirds are owned by the Dutch Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland and German Uranit. Downing Street sources said that the sale would be subject to national security considerations, which could lead to the Government maintaining a small interest in the company or other restrictions placed on the sale.

Meanwhile, the Dutch state took over the last 1.1% of the stakes in Ultra-Centrifuge Nederland, the Dutch part of Urenco, from private companies. Now, The Netherlands, owns the full 100% of the company. The Netherlands is not in favor of selling the uranium enrichment company to private parties.

The Times (U.K.) 12 October 2009 / Letter Dutch Finance Minister, 12 October 2009

Belarus: EIA Hearing new NPP.
On October 9, a public hearing took place in Ostrovets, in the Grodno Region, on the question of construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus. All the entrances to the cinema where the hearings were held got blocked by riot police and streets were filled with plainclothes police. Documents and leaflets critical of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) were confiscated illegally, because of their 'doubtful' contents. Employees of state institutions were brought to the hearings by busses. Forcedly assembled audience was registered in advance, in violation of regulations. Many registered participants were however not let inside the building. Speaking was allowed only to state employees in favor of nuclear power plant construction, others were denied to speak. The denial was motivated by the fact that they supposedly have been registered too late. It is clear that the procedure of these hearings didn't meet the standards and therefore the results can't be recognized as independent. Russian expert in nuclear physics Andrey Ozharovskiy was arrested in the morning on a charge of disorderly conduct when he wanted to enter the building and handing out a critical response to the EIA. He was released only after 7 days in jail. Thus, the authorities showed their true face again - they are not going to let the dissident speak openly on the matters important to those in power.

Belarus Anti-Nuclear Resistance, 10 October 2009

Sellafield: Dramatic rise to discharge limit.
Sellafield Ltd is expected to ask the U.K. Environment Agency (EA) for an almost 5-fold increase in gas discharge limit for Antimony 125 (Sb-125) so that the Magnox reprocessing plant can continue to operate. Sb-125 has a radioactive half-life of 2.75 years and emits beta radiation.

Disclosed in its Quarterly Report to the local West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group meeting scheduled for 1st October, the EA confirms that Sellafield wants the limit to be raised from its current level of 6.9 to Gigabequerels (GBq) to 30GBq. The bulk of Sellafield’s Sb-125 gas discharges arise during the de-canning  (removal of the fuel’s outer casing) of spent Magnox fuel, particularly the higher burn-up fuel, in the site’s Fuel Handling Plant prior to its transfer to the reprocessing plant.

In early 2008 the Sb-125 discharge limit stood at just 2.3GBq but later had to be raised to its current level of 6.9GBq when the discharge chimney sampling equipment was found to be under-reporting. In October 2008 Sellafield Ltd indicated to the EA that, as part of its Periodic Review submission, it would be seeking to increase the limit from 6.9GBq to 11.6 GBq. In a spectacular misjudgment of its discharge requirements, Sellafield now needs to raise the limit to 30GBq to allow the de-canning and subsequent reprocessing of the larger volumes of higher burn-up fuel being received in the Fuel Handling Plant from UK’s Magnox power stations.

Since 2007, processing higher burn-up fuel in the Fuel Handling Plant has lead to Sellafield breaching its discharge Quarterly Notification Level on a number of occasions, and in late 2008 exceeding the site’s internal trigger level. Subsequently, in April this year, as releases of Sb-125 from the Fuel Handling Plant threatened to breach the Sellafield site limit itself, Magnox reprocessing had to be abandoned for several weeks. Currently, the EA expects the current discharge limit to be breached again but is permitting Magnox reprocessing to continue – as the lesser of two evils.

The proposed increase in site discharge limit to 30GBq is unlikely to be authorized until April next year when approval from the European Commission, under Euratom Article 37, is expected to be given. Whilst the current limit of 6.9GBq is likely to be breached between now and then, it is understood that discharges of other fission products released during the de-canning of Magnox fuel in the Fuel Handling Plant, whilst also on the increase, will remain within their respective site discharge limits

CORE Press release, 30 September 2009

Ratings NEK downrated due to Belene.
On 5 October, according to the Platts News Flashes, the rating agency Standard & Poor's Rating Services down rated the credit ratings for Bulgaria's dominant state power utility NEK from BB to BB- partly because of its involvement in Belene. The down rating "reflects our view of a weakening of NEK's financial profile and liquidity on the back of large investments and in the context of a deteriorating domestic economy," said S&P credit analyst Tania Tsoneva. The spending that NEK did "prior to the project's financing, coupled with large regular investments, have significantly weakened NEK's financial metrics". In November there will be an update of S&P's CreditWatch.

Email: Greenpeace, 6 October 2009

U.A.E. Passes Nuclear-Energy Law.
On October 4, the United Arab Emirates issued the Federal Law Regarding the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. The law provides for "the development of a robust system for the licensing and control of nuclear material." Federal Law No. 6, which was issued by U.A.E. President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, establishes the independent Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation to oversee the country's nuclear energy sector, and appoints the regulator's board. It also reiterates the U.A.E.'s pledge not to domestically enrich uranium as part of its plans to build nuclear power plants, the first of which is slated for commercial operation in 2017. The law makes it illegal to develop, construct or operate uranium enrichment or spent fuel processing facilities within the country's borders.

The bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the U.A.E. and the U.S., or the 123 Agreement, could come into force at the end of October, when a mandatory 90-day period of Congressional review is expected to end.

Wall Street Journal, 5 October 2009

Uranium waste: Urenco transports to Russia stopped.
A TV-report by the German/French-TV-station ARTE brought a new wave of media coverage concerning uranium waste transports from France and Germany to Russia. One of the positive results of the media interest: Urenco has confirmed that the UF6-transport from Gronau to Russia on 26 August was indeed the last one!

This is a major success for the joint campaign involving Russian, Dutch, French, Finnish, Swedish and German activists and organizations for the last three-four years. Thanks to this hard campaign the anti-nuclear groups have finally stopped this part of the dirty export of nuclear waste to Russia. Considering that they were up against several of the biggest nuclear players in Europe and various governments they have done very well!

But the same documentary, aired on October 13, made clear that France’s energy giant EDF is still sending its uranium hexafluoride to the Seversk facility in Siberia, Russia. According to the ‘Liberation’ newspaper, 13 percent of French radioactive waste produced by EDF could be found in the open air in the town in Siberia to which access is forbidden. An EDF spokeswoman declined to confirm the 13 percent figure, or that waste was stored in the open air, but confirmed EDF sends nuclear waste to Russia. Because a small part (10-20 %) of the depleted uranium is send back after being enriched to natural levels U-235, authorities claim it is not waste but raw material.

Reuters, 12 October 2009 / Email: SOFA Muenster (Germany) , 16 October 2009

Bad news for American Centrifuge Plant.
On October 15, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it could not support a program to prove USEC’s centrifuge technology. The loss of US$30 million (Euro 20 million) for the next financial year comes after the DOE's July decision to refuse USEC a loan guarantee to help it secure finance for the American Centrifuge facility at Piketon, Ohio. At the time the company said it would have to 'demobilize' the project, on which it had already spent US$1.5 billion (see Nuclear Monitor 691, 16 July 2009, In Brief). The DOE placed USEC's application on hold and gave the company a chance to improve its application by proving the commercial viability of its technology. The DOE was to financially support a proving program with US$30-45 million per year, starting in the financial year 2010.

However, the US$30 million for the first financial year was recently denied by Congress during the appropriations process. And in another piece of bad news for USEC it has emerged that a manufacturing fault in its centrifuges will mean several months' delay while replacement parts are made and the units rebuilt. In a statement, the DOE noted that the deal with USEC still stands to postpone review of its loan guarantee application until certain "technical and financial milestones are met," which would probably take six months even without the delay of rebuilding. The department noted that it had "worked closely" with USEC this year on its loan guarantee application, and had put an extra $150-200 million per year into Cold War clean-up at an adjacent site managed by the company. This boost should lead to 800-1000 new jobs, the DOE said, which would offset the 750 jobs at risk on the American Centrifuge.

World Nuclear News, 16 October 2009

Jordan: site studies begin for Aqaba nuclear plant.
On October 13, the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) launched environmental and feasibility studies for the location of the countries’ first nuclear power plant. It marked the first gathering of the implementing parties of the site-selection and characterization study, a two-year process that will examine the proposed site, located in the southern strip of Aqaba, nine kilometers inland and 450 meters above sea level.

Over the next three months, nuclear engineering and consultant bureau’s, will determine whether the site, some 20km outside Aqaba city, will be suitable for the construction.

The JAEC selected Aqaba due to the abundant water sources of the nearby Red Sea and the proximity to infrastructure such as the Port of Aqaba and the electrical grid, the chairman said, noting that there are plans in place to establish up to six reactors at the site.

During the meeting on October 13, JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan indicated that the JAEC is also considering a proposal to establish two power plants at the site simultaneously. The measure would decrease costs by 20 per cent through utilizing economies of scale, he added.

A week later Toukan announced that Jordan is coming up with 'strong results' indicating the country would emerge as a key exporter of uranium by the end of 2011. He made the remarks during a tour of the uranium exploration operations, which are being carried out in central Jordan by the French atomic energy conglomerate, Areva.

Jordan Times, 14 October 2009 / Deutsche Presse Agentur, 20 October 2009

French Polynesia: nuclear compensation very restricted.
There was much praise in July when the French National Assembly approved a bill for compensating the victims of tests carried out in French Polynesia and Algeria over more than three decades. About 150,000 civilian and military personnel took part and many later developed serious health problems. (see Nuclear Monitor 686, 2 April 2009; In Brief) But now activists fighting for victims of French nuclear testing in the Pacific are stunned by conditions imposed in the compensation bill by France's upper house.

Roland Oldham, president of Mororua e Tatou Association, representing French Pacific nuclear test workers, said the actions of the upper house Senate reflected arrogance in metropolitan France towards its territories. He said the Senate has imposed strict requirements on applicants to prove their case on various grounds. The geographic zone from which claims would be considered had been greatly limited. The Senate had further rejected a bid by his organization - fighting for years for compensation - to be part of a compensation committee, which would now be only made of people nominated by the French Ministry of Defence. "It's the same people that have done the nuclear testing in our place, in our island," Mr Oldham said. "And finally, there's only one person decides if the case is going to be taken into account, (if a victim) is going to have compensation or not - and that's the Ministry of Defence. "For our Polynesian people it's going to be hard. A lot of our people won't be part of compensation."

Radio Australia News, 15 October 2009

Taiwan: life-time extension of oldest plants.
State-owned Taiwan Power Company has asked to keep using the oldest nuclear power plant, Chinshan, operational since 1978 in a coastal area of north Taiwan, after the licenses of its two reactors expire in 2018 and 2019, the Atomic Energy Council said. The application is for extending the life of the plant's two generators from 40 to 60 years. Environmental activists voiced severe concerns about what they called a risky plan, also citing a shortage of space to store the nuclear waste. “We strongly oppose the measure. We cannot afford taking such as risk," Gloria Hsu, a National Taiwan University professor, told AFP.

Taiwan Power operates three nuclear power plants, while a fourth is being constructed.

AFP, 21 October 2009

Cleaning up the Hanford underground radwaste tanks

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Given the high cost to empty and treat Hanford's radioactive tank wastes, the government should consider leaving more waste in the underground tanks, according to a new Government Accountability Office report: Nuclear Waste: Uncertainties and Questions about Costs and Risks Persist with DOE's Tank Waste Cleanup Strategy at Hanford. The estimated price tag to empty the underground tanks of radioactive waste and treat it are rapidly escalating and could be more than US$ 100 billion (Euro 67 billion) -- rather than the US$ 77 billion that Department of Energy estimates, according to the report.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for one of the world’s largest environmental cleanup programs: the treatment and disposal of nuclear waste created as a by-product of producing nuclear weapons. Decades of nuclear weapons production have left a legacy of radioactive and hazardous wastes to be cleaned up at DOE sites across the country. One of DOE’s most contaminated locations is its Hanford Site, which lies along the Columbia River in southeastern Washington State.

From 1944 through 1988, about 525 million gallons of radioactive tank waste was generated by Hanford’s plutonium-processing plants. The federal government initially managed this waste by intentionally discharging it into the ground; reducing its volume through various waste concentration methods, such as evaporating off the liquids; and building underground tanks to store the waste until it could be treated and permanently disposed of.

From the 1940s through the mid-1960s, 149 underground “single-shell” storage tanks were built at Hanford. Originally expected to last 10 to 20 years until a permanent disposal solution could be found, each of these tanks consisted of an outer concrete wall lined with one layer of carbon steel. Together, the single-shell tanks contain almost 30 million gallons of waste; about 27 million gallons are in solid or semisolid form, and about 3 million gallons are liquid. By the mid-1990s, 67 of the single-shell tanks had leaked or were presumed to have leaked about 1 million gallons of waste into the surrounding soil. To address concerns with the design of the single-shell tanks, a new tank design with two carbon-steel shells was adopted in the late 1960s. From 1968 through 1986, 28 of these double-shell tanks, were built and sited in 6 more tank farms. Together, these double-shell tanks contain about 26 million gallons of waste.

In 1989, DOE’s original strategy called for treating waste only from the double-shell tanks, but in 1991, DOE decided to treat waste from all 177 tanks. To help minimize further leaking, DOE had, by 2005, transferred most of the liquid in the single-shell tanks to the double-shell tanks, a process called interim stabilization. DOE is currently retrieving the remaining waste from single-shell tanks and moving it to the double-shell tanks in preparation for treatment.

Since plutonium production ended at Hanford in the late 1980s, DOE has spent more than US$ 12 billion (in current dollars) to manage the tank waste and explore ways to treat and dispose of it. After beginning and discontinuing several different tank waste cleanup strategies, DOE has now embarked on a strategy that involves building a complex of treatment facilities, collectively called the Hanford  Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant. Currently under construction and estimated to cost US$ 12.3 billion to design, build, and commission, this waste treatment plant consists of a laboratory for analyzing the waste’s composition; a pretreatment plant to separate the waste into two streams (a highly radioactive fraction called high-level waste and a lower-radioactivity fraction called low-activity waste); two waste treatment facilities, one for high-level waste and one for low-activity waste; and more than 20 support facilities. DOE estimates that it will cost tens of billions of dollars and take until 2047 to complete tank waste cleanup and permanently close the underground storage tanks.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, to assess (1) DOE's current tank waste cleanup strategy and key technical, legal, and other uncertainties; (2) the extent to which DOE has analyzed whether this strategy is commensurate with risks from the wastes; and (3) opportunities to reduce tank waste cleanup costs.

DOE's tank waste cleanup strategy consists of five key phases--waste characterization, retrieval, pretreatment, treatment, and permanent disposal--but critical uncertainties call into question whether the strategy can succeed as planned. Technical uncertainties include whether DOE can retrieve waste from tanks at the rate needed to support continuous operation of the waste treatment complex now under construction and whether key treatment technologies will work. Legal uncertainties include whether DOE can treat and dispose of some tank waste as other than high-level (highly radioactive) waste and how much residual waste can be left in the tanks when they are eventually closed. Such uncertainties could lead to significant cost increases and further delays in completing Hanford's tank waste cleanup activities. DOE has not systematically evaluated whether its tank waste cleanup strategy is commensurate with risks posed by the wastes. DOE lacks credible or complete estimates of how much the strategy will cost or how long it will take. The total project cost of constructing the waste treatment plant alone grew from US$ 4.3 billion in 2000 to US$ 12.3 billion in 2006. In addition, DOE did not include, or has been unable to quantify, a number of significant costs in its current estimate of the overall cost of its cleanup strategy. For example, DOE has not included some actual expenditures to date or storage costs for high-level waste canisters. Hanford workers have emptied tanks at the rate of about one a year since 2003, finding the work to be more difficult than expected. The GAO report says Hanford will need to retrieve waste at the rate of five to seven tanks a year when the vitrification plant starts turning the waste into a stable glass form. If not, the plant will not be able to operate continuously and costs will rise.

Further, DOE's schedule targets have slipped, with end of treatment extending from 2028 to 2047, which increases overall operations costs. Overall the total estimated cost could significantly exceed DOE's current estimate of US$ 77 billion, with estimates ranging from about US$ 86 billion to over US$ 100 billion, depending upon the date cleanup is completed. DOE has also fallen short in terms of risk-informed decision making. While DOE has analyzed risks in environmental impact statements required for its tank waste treatment activities at Hanford, it has not followed a systematic risk assessment framework, like one outlined in a 1983 report, updated in 2008, by the National Academy of Sciences. As a result, DOE cannot be assured that its present strategy is proportional to the reduction in risk that cleanup is to achieve. Some opportunities may still exist to reduce the costs of DOE's tank waste cleanup strategy, but the likelihood of success is unknown. For example, DOE is trying to increase the concentration of high-level waste in each disposal canister, thereby reducing the number of canisters and possibly shortening treatment time frames. DOE could also work with regulators to demonstrate, on a tank-farm basis, the feasibility of leaving varying amounts of residual waste in tanks at closing without threatening human or ecological health. In removing waste from tanks, DOE has found that the last portion can be disproportionately difficult and costly to remove. Specifically, the cost of removing the last 15 percent of waste can equal or exceed the cost of removing the first 85 percent.

Cost escalation is the result of a range of issues, including the difficulties Hanford workers have had in emptying the leak-prone tanks of millions of gallons of waste, questions about how well vitrification plant technology will work and a decision not to send treated wastes to Yucca Mountain, Nev., for disposal, the report says.

DOE disagreed with the increased cost estimate. It pointed out that GAO's predictions of cost and schedule problems at the Rocky Flats, Colo., nuclear site had not materialized. It also argued DOE has shown it could successfully treat radioactive waste at several of its other nuclear sites. But the report countered that DOE had not yet faced a tank waste challenge of the magnitude at Hanford, both in the volume of waste and the complex variety of chemical and radioactive elements that are mixed in the tanks.

DOE is legally required to empty 99 percent of the waste in the tanks or to empty each tank to the limits of technology before the tanks can be closed. But the report says, "More than half the experts we spoke with said that the 99 percent figure has no scientific basis, and several recommended that DOE conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of residual tank waste." As workers try to get the last waste out of each tank, the cost rises. "DOE has estimated that the cost of retrieving the last 15 percent of the waste can equal or exceed the cost of removing the first 85 percent," the report says.

The retrieved waste is planned to be treated at the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant for disposal. But DOE faces technical uncertainties, whether key treatment technologies at the vitrification plant will work, the report says. "Unless DOE successfully resolves these uncertainties, it could face problems, such as facility shutdowns, facility modifications and retrofitting, or significant cost increases and delays in completing Hanford's tank waste cleanup activities," according to the report.

DOE is researching ways to make sure the vitrification plant will operate as planned, including by operating large test facilities with materials that simulate radioactive waste. If DOE can solve technical issues to allow more high-level waste and less glass-forming materials to be used to produce the glassified logs at the vitrification plant, the number of waste canisters and costs would be reduced.

However, there still remains the question of what to do with the glassified waste now that the Obama administration has ruled out sending it to Yucca Mountain. That means Hanford will need capacity for at least temporary storage of the treated waste.

Meanwhile, a helicopter equipped with radiation detecting equipment has been used to scan almost 4000 hectares of the Hanford reservation in search of radioactive rabbit droppings. The helicopter was able to map each of the slightly radioactive stools with GPS coordinates. Rabbits developed an appetite for the radioactive caesium and strontium salts, leaking from the underground tanks. This resulted in slightly radioactive droppings. Use of the helicopter means that the droppings can be located and removed in a matter of days rather than the months that would have been needed for people to search for it on the ground. The droppings will be put into landfill at the Hanford site.

The September 30, report "Nuclear Waste: Uncertainties and Questions about Costs and Risks Persist with DOE's Tank Waste Cleanup Strategy at Hanford" can be found at:

Sources: GAO Report Nuclear Waste: Uncertainties and Questions about Costs and Risks Persist with DOE's Tank Waste Cleanup Strategy at Hanford, 30 September 2009 / Tri-City Herald, 2 October 2009 / World Nuclear news, 9 October 2009
Contact: Hanford Challenge, 219 First Avenue S, Suite 220, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.
Tel: +1 206-292-2850

High Level Waste storage tanks at Sellafield (U.K.)

The first vital step in combating and reducing the highest hazard area at Sellafield – the High Level Waste (HLW) storage tanks – has been put out to tender by Sellafield Ltd., early October.  Invitations to tender for the work contract, relates to ‘the design and build of a highly active liquid effluent plant’. Sellafield Ltd has confirmed that the contract relates to the provision of a number of new HLW storage tanks as well as additional ‘evaporative capacity’ - a reference to downstream plant that condense the liquid HLW prior to its conversion to solid glass form. In a number of phases stretching over the next 8 or 9 years, the contract is believed to be worth up to BP 1.5 billion (Euro 1.6 bn , US$ 2.4 bn).

Sellafield has 21 HLW storage tanks. Whilst the older tanks, numbered 1-8 and commissioned between 1955 and 1968, are no longer in service, the condition of some of the newer tanks 9-21 (1970-1990) has been the subject of significant concern by the Health & Safety Executive’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) in recent years.

Sellafield’s existing HLW storage tanks (9-21) are each designed to hold up to 150 cubic meters of liquid HLW. Each is fitted with 7 internal cooling coils as well as external cooling jackets. Whilst the jackets on tanks 9-11 cover the tank base and extend 1 meter up the side, the jackets on tanks 12-21 cover not only the tank base but also extend the full height of the tanks to a point above the maximum liquor level.

Whilst the failure of some of the cooling coils, which cannot be replaced, has led to repeated concerns in recent years, new warnings have been issued by the NII on other high risk facilities at Sellafield. Included in the high risk category is an old fuel storage pond B30 known to the workforce as ‘Dirty Thirty’. Built in 1959 to prepare and store Magnox reactor fuel prior to reprocessing, B30 was closed in the early 1970’s. Now under decommissioning, its inventory includes large quantities of sludge from corroded fuel and a variety of old operational equipment. At a local liaison meeting on the October 1, NII warned that the risks of something serious happening in Sellafield’s old plants are far too high.

CORE Briefing 05/09, 9 October 2009

Gorleben revelations and elections sparks anti-nuclear revival

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On September 5, some 50,000 people marched in the German capital Berlin, in a demonstration against nuclear energy. It was the largest anti-nuclear demonstration in Germany since 1986, when in the months after Chernobyl hundred-thousands of people took the streets. The demonstration was meant as a warning to politicians that anti-nuclear sentiment is still strong and people will engage against any attempt to flaw the phase-out of nuclear power in Germany after the general elections on September 27.

The protest was initiated by local groups from the Wendland, the region in Germany where Gorleben is situated. Gorleben was designated in the 1970's to be location where the countries nuclear waste will be disposed of in salt mines.

Meanwhile, more and more becomes known over the last few months about how Gorleben was selected.

Gerd Luettig, a retired geology professor involved in the 1970s search for a salt deposit to be made a nuclear dump, claimed that a West German provincial leader placed a nuclear waste dump near the border with communist East Germany out of revenge for the East Germans doing the same on their side of the border. In early August 2009, Luettig told ddp news agency that is how Gorleben came to be chosen in 1977 by the then Conservative premier of Lower Saxony state, Ernst Albrecht. Out of 100 salt deposits investigated, all of them in northern Germany, Gorleben was in the final shortlist of eight. The Federal government identified three promising sites, all in Lower Saxony. Gorleben was not among them. After opposition from state officials of Lower Saxony, the federal government let them choose its own site.

Lüttig says Albrecht wanted a location near the border because the East Germans "got us into hot water with their final repository at Morsleben". Gorleben and Morsleben are about 95 kilometers apart. Both villages were close to the border that separated the two Germanies.

Lüttig says West German geologists and Albrecht's state government knew from talks with East German geologists, that the Morsleben former salt mine "was technically defective" and water was flowing into it. "We always feared - and that enraged Mr Albrecht - that one day Morsleben would be flooded and radioactively polluted water could flow towards Helmstedt", then the crossover point at the border, "and despoil a whole landscape there".

Thereupon the premier had declared, "then we'll do the same", Lüttig says. "In further talks Albrecht gathered arguments. He said the county was after all thinly populated and its council had asked him to do something there and that it would benefit the county. Albrecht focussed on that more and more." Lüttig said he and his team had found Gorleben "barely suitable" and only named it "because it's a relatively large salt deposit."

Later in August, it emerged that the former Federal government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl had brushed over scientific objections to the project in the 1980s. A report by the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper claimed that the Kohl government had "sugarcoated" an experts' report saying that the underground Gorleben Salt Dome in Lower Saxony was not in fact suitable for long-term storage of dangerous nuclear waste. The newspaper report said that in 1983 the Kohl cabinet put pressure on the scientists advising the government on the options for nuclear-waste storage to approve the Gorleben site, and had then paraphrased their report making it appear more positive, apparently in an effort to save money. The scientific objections to the Gorleben site centred on the concern that the sediment around the salt-cave is not strong enough to prevent the escape of radiation.

One day after the revelations, on August 26, 2009, Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that the salt dome Gorleben "is dead." Gabriel said: "Under those circumstances, research (at Gorleben) can't be continued." Germany's Federal Office for Radiation Protection backed the minister. A spokesman of the office told the Frankfurter Rundschau that the start of the Gorleben project “has many birth defects that are not compatible with today's open and transparent policies and is therefore controversial”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives Christian-Democrats want to continue pursuing Gorleben, while the Social Democrats are in favor of looking for additional, potentially more promising locations. The Conservatives dislike that plan because most of the alternative candidates are located in states dominated by party colleagues

Despite some 1.5 billion euros (US$ 2 billion) having been spent on research there since 1979 the site has however never become operational for long-term waste storage. Because of the massive public protests, the German government in 2000 stopped researching Gorleben, but that moratorium expires in October 2010 at the latest.

In the September 27, 2009, general elections the phase-out of nuclear power is an important issue. A continuation of the ruling yellow-red government (Christian-Democrats and Social Democrats) is likely to hold on to the planned phase-out (which will lead to the closure of 7 nuclear reactors in the next 3 years.) A pro-nuclear yellow-black coalition (Christian-Democrats and Liberals, favored by chancellor Merkel), was leading in the polls, but over the last few weeks the lead disappeared, and the outcome is very much unsure. A yellow-black coalition will most likely suspend the phase-out but is not in favor of new build.

On the website: you can find many  press reviews of the September 5 demonstration. Scroll down to find international media.

Sources:, 8 August 2009 / EarthTimes, 25 August  2009 / UPI, 26 August 2009
Contact: BI Umweltschutz Luechow Dannenberg, Rosenstr. 20, 29439 Luechow, Germany, Tel: +49 5841 4684, Email:, Web:

More plutonium in Asse II research mine. There is more than twice the amount of plutonium stored at the Asse waste dump in Germany than previously estimated. Ministers said there was 28 kilograms of plutonium in the Asse II dump, not the nine kilograms previously estimated by operators Helmholtz. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection took over operation of the facility earlier this year after unauthorised material was found there. Low- and intermediate level nuclear waste was deposited at the Asse Research mine in the 60s and 70s for research purposes. These experiments have been terminated, but the waste remains in the pit. Brine influx into the allegedly stable and dry repository was known even when the deposition began.
Bloomberg, 29 August 2009 / Nuclear Heritage Information leaflet

Geology and nuclear waste in Finland

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Janne Björklund, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation

The issue of final disposal of used nuclear fuel has not yet been resolved. Use of nuclear power includes a difficult moral question: do we have the right to make use of uranium resources and just leave the resulting waste for the next thousands of generations to worry about? Finland, together with Sweden, are internationally often seen as countries close to a final disposal facility.

In Finland, the legislation now forbids the export of nuclear waste. The plan is to use bedrock of Olkiluoto - site next to a nuclear plant - for final disposal. On this process, the key issue is the long-term safety. Spent nuclear fuel is maybe the most dangerous material which exists. There is not a permission to build or use an end-disposal site anywhere, the Finnish company Posiva has only a test-permit at the moment. Several years of research are still needed before even an application of the final disposal site can be posted.

Bedrock in Olkiluoto is full of cracks, because of the location. During a future ice-age, as it did in the past, the glaciers extend fully in top of Olkiluoto island. This creates heavy earthquakes, rifts and cracks to the bedrock.

Mostly this site was choosen because of political reasons, it is next to a nuclear power plant and the local people are not so much against the final disposal site. There were other candidates also, but those created a lot of local resistance.

A survey commissioned by the STUK – the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority - has estimated the long-term safety of the Posiva project. According to this survey by professor in geology Matti Saarnisto, long-term safety of the final disposal site is speculative and is not based on scientific facts. Professor Saarnisto has been a research professor at the Finnish Geological Survey and the Secretary General at the Finnish Academy of sciences.

First of all, the depth to which permafrost can extend during an ice age has been incorrectly estimated. Permafrost can cause massive pressure on the end-disposal capsules and crack them. Posivas estimates the depth of the permafrost a bit over 180 meters. According to professor Saarnisto, the same kind of mathematical models have been used in Canada and the result have been about 700 meters. One can ask, why Posiva doesn't plan to put the final disposal site deeper, f.e.800 meters? Answer can be, that the structure of the bedrock on that depth is so inconvenient that the implementation is very expensive or even impossible.

The reversibility and monitoring of nuclear waste are impossible to realize, as the nuclear waste site will be either partially or wholly submerged in water or continental ice for most of the timeframe being examined. Long-term safety for the site means several hundreds of thousands of years. Professor Saarnisto wrote: 'somewhere in the next 120 000 the depository will be covered by a continental glacier of the Baltic basin waters for some 40 000 years without any possibility to control it'. The controllability and reversibility is anyway needed - if something goes wrong, the nuclear waste capsules need to be returned to the surface.

The prediction of earthquake occurrences is inadequate, according to professor Saarnisto. Huge downward and upward movements of the bedrock are one of the main risks of the depository, together with glacial loadings and permafrost. Posivas report of long-term safety does not deal with these issues properly. Posiva notes that a single breakup of a capsule wouldn't have environmental effects, but this position is presented without arguments.

Several depository sites all over the world have run into serious trouble and the projects have been terminated. What to do with the nuclear waste if end disposal in bedrock seems to be impossible to operate? First of all, we should stop producing more of it..

Further reading:

  1. The decision in principle by the Government concerning Posiva Oy's application for the construction of a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel produced in Finland. 2001.
  2. Matti Saarnisto 2008: Evaluation report on the Posiva report 2006-5. Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority(STUK). available on demand from STUK.
  3. Posiva (2008): Expansion of the Repository for Spent Nuclear Fuel. Environmental Impact Assessment Report.
  4. Expected Evolution of a Spent Nuclear Fuel Repository at Olkiluoto (Revised October 2007) December 2006, Posiva

Source and contact: Janne Björklund, nuclear campaign coordinator, Finnish Association for Nature Conservation

Not a wasteland: Northern Territory nuclear waste dump campaign growing stronger

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative

July 15, 2009 will mark four years since the Howard government announced plans for a federal radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory (NT), Australia. Three Department of Defense sites – Mt Everard, Harts Range and Fishers Ridge - were originally named, with Muckaty later added to the short list after being contentiously nominated by the Northern Land Council.

The July 15, 2005, announcement was made with no consultation with Traditional Owners or the NT government. It was a decide-announce-defend approach, typical of the previous Howard federal government. Senior Australian Labor Party (ALP) politicians called legislation facilitating the dump, the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA), 'sordid', 'draconian' and 'arrogant'.

However, despite ALP election promises clearly stating that the party would repeal the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act, the Rudd federal government has continued to push forward with the plan. Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has not indicated any change in policy, despite ALP national policy on radioactive waste management calling for an 'open, transparent process' that 'allows access to appeal mechanisms'. The current process is vastly different from ALP promises and platform, and far out of step with international standards of consultation. (see Nuclear Monitor 686, April 2, 2009: "Australian Government poised for announcement on controversial waste dump")

The UK Committee on Radioactive Waste Management report from July 2006 recommends that "Community involvement in any proposals for the siting of long term radioactive waste facilities should be based on the principle of volunteerism, that is, an expressed willingness to participate". The report acknowledges: "There is a growing recognition that it is not ethically acceptable for a society to impose a radioactive waste facility on an unwilling community".

In contrast, affected people in the Northern Territory found out about the dump proposal though the media. Pastoralist Barry Utley, who runs Yeltu Park station, surrounding the Fishers Ridge site on all four sides, recalls: "... a friend rang us that night and said, 'Did you happen to get the newspaper'? It mentioned that Fishers Ridge is to be one out of three sites chosen for a nuclear waste dump. The news turned our world upside down."

Traditional Owners, the NT government, national environment and health groups have written time and time again to Minister Ferguson asking when the dump laws will be scrapped and the site nominations revoked. The answers received are literally cut and pasted from one reply to the next. The letters say the Minister "will not take piecemeal steps or decisions on radioactive waste management," which has involved taking no decisions and keeping a closed door on this issue for the past 18 months.

Marlene Bennett, a Traditional Owner from the Muckaty Land Trust, one of the targeted sites, summed it up giving evidence at a Senate Inquiry last year: "I would just like to question why Martin Ferguson is sitting on this issue like a hen trying to hatch an egg".

While the letters from Ferguson state that "no decisions will be taken without appropriate stakeholder consultation," he was quoted on ABC on April 30 saying, "I'm not going to go around this country wasting taxpayers dollars having consultations about a potential site that has not been determined." He said that there would be proper consultation after a recommendation for an 'appropriate site' had been made.

With ALP policy and promises decaying significantly faster than radioactive waste, its no wonder communities are worried that the NT sites will still be targeted. More and more people are starting to speak out and demand action. Traditional Owners and community members from the targeted sites continue to travel around the country, speaking at public meetings and to media, to raise the national profile of the dump campaign.

A letter signed by 58 Traditional Owners of the Muckaty Land Trust was recently sent to Minister Ferguson. The letter reaffirmed opposition to the proposal: "We want you to know that Traditional Owners are waiting to show you that the country means something to them. That is why we want you to come along and to see because we don't want that rubbish dump to be here in Muckaty area".

There has been increasing support from trade unions, which is crucial to building pressure on the government in the lead up to the ALP National Conference at the end of July. On June 4, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Congress voted to support NT communities and workers fighting the proposed dump. The motion, which passed uncontested, demanded repeal of the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act,  a scrapping of all site nominations, called for a public inquiry into radioactive waste management and, crucially, vowed to support Traditional Owners and trade unionists refusing to cooperate with implementation of the current dump policy.

Groundwork for this ACTU resolution began in April, when Muckaty Traditional Owners Dianne Stokes, Mark Lane and Mark Chungaloo spoke at a public meeting in Wollongong, hosted by the Illawarra Aboriginal Land Council. At the meeting, veteran union activist Fred Moore explained the breadth of support for Gurindji people during the Wave Hill station walk off in the late 1960's, recalling how the Seaman's Union had refused to load cattle from NT Stations in solidarity with the striking workers. The potential for similar action was raised by Maritime Union of Australia Illawarra secretary Garry Keane, who proposed that workers refuse to unload radioactive waste returning to Australia if earmarked for any of the Northern Territory sites.

The secretive transport and export of radioactive materials through Wollongong and out of Port Kembla only weeks earlier was strongly condemned by the local community. Everyone spoke about building alliances with people in the NT to collectively oppose government support for the nuclear industry.

South Coast Labor Council Secretary Arthur Rorris said: "It disappoints me knowing, and I think its shameful, that the lands of the first Australians, the Traditional Owners, are treated in such a way that they are regarded as a waste dump ... What was shown with the Lucas Heights [radioactive transport] is that the people of this region still support the nuclear free policy, it is something that the union movement will not change ... it's not going to change. "

On July 15 targeted communities in the Territory will be calling on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to immediately drop the waste dump plan and to remove Martin Ferguson from the radioactive waste portfolio. The campaign opposing the national radioactive waste dump proposed for South Australia was a six-year battle, but was won through community resilience and perseverance. People from targeted areas, living along potential transport routes and supporters nationally and internationally must maintain unwavering and vocal opposition to the Northern Territory dump plan to achieve the same result.


Source and contact: Natalie Wasley. Natalie is a campaigner with the Arid Lands Environment Centre and the Beyond Nuclear Initiative.

"Our land is our life. Once our great grandfathers walked this land. This waste dump will destroy our land and animals. We say no. No to the waste dump."
Christine Morton, Muckaty Traditional Owner.

"This land is not empty - people live right nearby. We hunt and collect bush tucker here and I am the custodian of a sacred site within the boundaries of the defence land. We don't want this poison here."
Steven McCormack, Traditional Owner living 4km from Mt Everard.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Indonesia: Tender postponed indefinitely.
Indonesian State Minister of Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman announced late last month (May) that the tendering process for new nuclear power plants, expected to be completed by the end of the year, have been postponed indefinitely. The process has lacked political support and with presidential elections due in July, the government has pulled the plug. Kusmayanto said, ‘It's impossible to decide now. For the fastest, it will possibly take at last six more years.’ This destroys plans to have a nuclear power plant operating in the 2016-2019 timeframe established by Indonesian Law No. 17/2007.

Nuclear Reaction, 18 June 2009

Sweden: smiling sun banned from Parliament.
Seven antinuclear activists who went to the Swedish Parliament to listen to the energy debate on June 16, were forced to leave the public gallery and were thereafter taken into inquiry by the police. This has never happened before. The reason was that five of them where wearing t-shirts with the smiling sun, the well known antinuclear symbol. Most of them activists were members of the Swedish antinuclear movement and some belong to the Swedish Green woman.

Email: Eia Liljegren-Palmær, 19 June 2009

U.K.: Serious accident averted at Sizewell.
A serious accident at the Sizewell A Magnox reactor was only averted because a worker cleaning clothes in a laundry noticed cooling water leaking from a spent fuel storage pond. In January 2007 40,000 gallons of radioactive water (1 gallon (UK) is about 4.54609 liter)  leaked from a 15ft (4.5 meter) split in a pipe in the cooling pond, containing 5,000 spent fuel rods and alarms failed to warn staff or were ignored. If the pond had emptied of water and exposed the highly-radioactive rods would have caught fire with an airborne release of radioactivity. Thanks to the worker in the laundry staff were able to contain the leak - discharging the radioactive waster into the sea - and re-fill the pond.

A new report on the accident has now been published. It is written by nuclear consultant Dr John Large, commissioned by the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign and based on Nuclear Installation Inspectorate reports released under Freedom of Information. The NII report highlighted a number of serious concerns surrounding the accident. Not only did the pond alarms fail, but had it worked it would have triggered another alarm that had already been on for two days but ignored by staff. There was also poorly designed and poorly installed instrumentation and control equipment. The NII report also suggests that it chose not to prosecute the operators because of staff shortages.

N-base briefing 618, 17 june 2009

Spain: renewal of operation license Garona?
On June 8, the five-member board of Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) unanimously agreed to recommend that the Garona nuclear plant in northern Spain should get a new 10-year operating licence if it upgrades its safety equipment. The 38-year-old nuclear plant's licence expires on July 5. Nuclear Safety Council chairwoman Carmen Martinez Ten said the decision was taken on technical and security grounds and not for reasons of "energy policy, economics or another nature".

The Spanish government will have to take a clear stand for or against nuclear power before July 5, when it decides whether to renew the operating licence Garona, the oldest of the country's six nuclear plants. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose socialist government has backed the developmentof  renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, has said he wants to phase out nuclear energy in the country when the life span of its six nuclear plants expires. A decision to prolong the life of the Garona plant would be a major u-turn for Zapatero, who pledged to gradually phase out nuclear power during general elections in 2004 and 2008. However, the prime minister said. "The decision regarding Garona will be coherent with the commitments in our election programme as long as the supply of power is guaranteed," This statement was seen by some observers as a sign that the government was leaning towards renewing, maybe for a short period. Later in June, CSN said the government asked their opinion about renewing the permit for two, four or six years, rather than the 10 years. The 500 megawatt Garona plant provided just 1.3 percent of Spain's electricity last year and grid operators say its closure would pose no supply problems.

The Spanish branch of Greenpeace has urged the government not to renew the licence of the plant, arguing it is unsafe. It has called it the "plant of 1,000 fissures". The two utilities running the plant, Iberdrola and Endesa, estimate it will cost 50 million euros (US$70 million) to carry out the upgrades to the plants safety equipment recommended by the CSN.

Spain, along with Denmark and Germany, is among the three biggest producers of wind power in the European Union and the country is one of the largest world producers of solar power.

AFP, 11 June 2009 / Reuters, 19 June 2009

Blows for IAEA Fuel Bank proposal. Developing countries blocked plans by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for nuclear fuel banks that aim to keep countries from acquiring sensitive nuclear technology by offering them alternatives. The Vienna-based agency and Western countries had hoped the IAEA's governing board would give the green light for fleshing out plans to sway countries to buy rather than make nuclear fuel, by offering an insurance in case their supply is cut off for political reasons. But a June 18, joint statement by the Group of 77 (a coalition of developing countries and the Non-Aligned Movement) said that "none of the proposals provide a proper assurance of supply of nuclear fuel." The plans "should not be designed in a way that discourages states from developing or expanding their capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle". The 35 members of the board agreed only that the nuclear agency "may continue its consultations and discussions" to further work on the fuel bank proposals, according to diplomats at the meeting.

The idea of the IAEA Fuel Bank was to keep countries from acquiring uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used not only for energy purposes, but also for making nuclear bomb material. However, developing countries fear that such plans would pressure them to give up their right to peacefully using nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, in May the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Verhagen, concluded that the British, German and Dutch (the countries that form the Urenco enrichment consortium) initiative for assured supply for low enriched nuclear fuel failed. In May he wrote to Dutch Parliament that “many countries see this condition (giving up enrichment and reprocessing) as discriminating and an unacceptable violation of their rights under the non-proliferation treaty”.

Another blow for the concept of Multilateral Approaches, which is seen by many proponents of nuclear power as one of the main ways to counter proliferation worries.

Earthtimes, 18 June 2209 / Laka Foundation, 18 may 2009

Discussion on new-build in Germany heats up. Germany's economy minister ruled out building new nuclear power stations but said the life of some reactors might be extended and the development of alternative technologies stepped up. "We need limited extensions until we are able to work with sensible alternative technologies in an economical and environmentally friendly manner," Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily in an interview, published on June 19.. "That includes the possibility of equipping existing nuclear power stations with state-of-the-art technology in order to make them even safer and more efficient," the conservative minister said. "But I see no need to build new nuclear reactors." General elections are due in September. On September 5, a nationwide demonstration will take place in Berlin.

Nuclear Reaction, 22 June 2009

Japan: MOX target delayed. Japanese plans for 16-18 reactors to be using mixed oxide (MOX) fuel by 2010 have been put back by five years, the country's Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) has announced. Up until 1998, Japan sent the bulk of its used fuel to plants in France and the UK for reprocessing and MOX fabrication. However, since 1999 it has been storing used fuel in anticipation of full-scale operation of its own reprocessing and MOX fabrication facilities. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd's (JNFL's) reprocessing plant under construction at Rokkasho-mura is scheduled for completion in August 2009, but earlier this year the company put back the completion date for its planned J-MOX fabrication facility from August 2012 to August 2015. Construction work on the fabrication facility is scheduled to begin in November 2009. Four shipments of reactor-grade plutonium recovered from used fuel have been sent back to Japan from European reprocessing plants since 1992. The most recent arrived in Japan from France in May 2009.

World Nuclear News, 12 June 2009

Australia: union action on radioactive waste. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has welcomed the support of Australia’s peak trade union body ACTU in pushing for an end to any federal government move to impose a radioactive waste dump on the Northern Territory and developing a credible and responsible approach to radioactive waste management in Australia. On June 4, the ACTU Congress in Brisbane passed a resolution critical of the government’s delay in delivering on a 2007 election commitment on radioactive waste management and called for an independent and public inquiry into the best options for dealing with radioactive waste.

“The ACTU’s active support in this issue is powerful and very welcome,” said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney. “The federal government was elected on a promise to scrap the heavy handed waste dump laws and make radioactive waste policy responsible and transparent.  It has failed to deliver on this promise and this resolution is an important reminder to the government and to Resources Minister Ferguson that the community expects better.”

The ACTU now joins a broad range of environment and public health groups, Indigenous organisations and state, territory and local governments concerned by the federal government’s lack of responsible and inclusive action on this issue.

ACF Press release, 5 June 2009

U.S.: doubts about decommissioning funds. Two days after Associated Press reported that operators of nearly half of the US' 104 nuclear reactors are not setting aside enough funds to cover projected decommissioning costs, the NRC has contacted owners of 18 nuclear power plants asking them to explain how the economic downturn has affected funds they must set aside to cover future decommissioning costs. The AP report said the shortfalls have been caused by a combination of falling investments and rising decommissioning costs. Plant operators are required to establish funding during a reactor's operating life to ensure the reactor site will be properly cleaned up once the plant is permanently closed, the NRC said, adding that its review of the latest reports from reactor operators "suggests several plants must adjust their funding plans." Tim McGinty, director of policy and rulemaking in the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation said: "This is not a current safety issue, but the plants do have to prove to us they're setting aside money appropriately."

Platts, 19 June 2009

German Environment Minister: nuclear industry is lying

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Diet Simon

Sigmar Gabriel, the German environment minister has accused the nuclear power industry of decades of lying to the public about a nuclear dump that is in danger of collapsing and is taking in 12 cubic meters of radioactive brine daily.

Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, told a newspaper: "We have now found files with proof that the claim that Asse was an exploratory mine was a pack of lies. It was intended to be a final repository right from the start - the nuclear industry used Asse to even save the costs of interim storage. The waste was just tipped in and they even had the audacity to demand that costs be kept as low as possible."

The dump in question is Asse II at Wolfenbüttel near Braunschweig, some 225 km southwest of Berlin. It was meant to be the pilot for a final repository in salt at Gorleben, 135 kms northeast, where illegal plans have just been revealed.

Gabriel demands that the operators of nuclear power stations pay the more than two billion euros it will cost to fix Asse II and that they make a public apology. 

Gabriel cites an exchange of letters in November and December 1969 between the AEG Company and the then operator of Asse II, the Gesellschaft für Strahlenforschung (Society for Radiation Research).

The correspondence explicitly refers to the final storage of radioactive wastes. The operator states that storage capacity would last "until the year 2000".  Gabriel says the operator had even confirmed in writing to the nuclear industry "that the future price of the storage of radioactive waste materials will not be calculated according to strict commercial principles".

He adds that the environment ministry only received the files after massive pressure and a long delay. "The present-day claim that Asse was a research mine is an audacious, fat lie." It was now clear that the responsibility for the catastrophic conditions in Asse II lies with the nuclear industry and its former operator, the Society for Radiation Research.

The minister told the paper: "There was a shameless gang at work. I can only call on the nuclear industry to finally accept its responsibility and apologize publicly." It would have an opportunity to do so next week at a conference of the energy and water industries.

"And the nuclear power station operators must pay for fixing the problem even before lawmakers get active. We can't accept that costs of more than two, perhaps three or four billion euros for fixing a cheap final repository in Asse are dumped on the taxpayers."

A spokesman for the local activists fighting dumping at Gorleben, Wolfgang Ehmke of the Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Lüchow-Dannenberg, said Gabriel could use the same drastic words about Gorleben. "We didn't even speak as plainly when it emerged recently that already in the 90s the Gorleben salt dome was being constructed as a final repository." Ehmke adds that since the 80s the nuclear power industry even cited the "exploratory mine" as proof of disposal although not a gram of waste was stored in it and the salt is highly contentious among experts.  "Anyone who claims that open-ended research is being done in Gorleben and a fair, transparent search of alternate sites is being done is lying," says Ehmke.

Environment Minister Gabriel appealed to Chancellor Angela Merkel to make the nuclear industry foot the bill for fixing Asse II. Merkel belongs to the conservative Christian Democrat party, which leads the government, in which the Social Democrats are the junior coalition partners.

It's a fraught relationship and with an election due in September its differences are becoming ever more obvious. Merkel's party backs nuclear power and wants Gorleben officially declared the final waste repository although geologists warn that it has the same problems as Asse.

Germany officially has four deposits for nuclear waste. A pit was dug in salt at Gorleben to explore its suitability and a surface hall nearby holds containers of highly active waste in "interim" storage. Morsleben is an abandoned rock salt mine. Schacht Konrad is a former iron mine.

Source: Diet Simon
Contact: BI Lüchow Dannenberg, Rosenstr. 20, D-29429 Lüchow, Germany.
Tel: +49 - 5841-4684
Email: buero@bi-luechow-dannenberg

Swedish nuclear industry wants reactor waste facility at Forsmark

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Miles Goldstick

On 3 June 2009 the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co (SKB) announced it’s decision to apply to build a reactor-waste storage facility on the coast of the Baltic Sea at Forsmark, in the municipality of Östhammar, about 120 km north of Stockholm. The method, called KBS3, involves placement of the waste in copper canisters surrounded by clay and put in tunnels 500 meters underground in bedrock.

The announcement was made at a highly orchestrated press conference with the heads of the two competing municipalities of Oskarshamn and Östhammar obediently taking part. The decision came despite many fundamental issues remaining to be determined. Environmental groups have been quick to point out that a location can not be chosen before a method is approved and that in any case an inland location is preferred from the perspective of risking further radioactive pollution of the Baltic Sea. Further, it is uncertain if the bedrock is suitable from the perspective of geological stability and groundwater flow, and if the local conditions will result in copper corroding at an unacceptable rate. None-the-less, SKB has reason to be so bold as they have won almost unanimous support in all quarters other than from environmental groups.

The next step is for SKB to present a preliminary environmental impact assessment (EIA) for review by all stakeholders, which is currently planned for mid-2010. SKB’s schedule it to submit the final EIA to the Environmental Court during 2010. That review is expected to take about a year. Once the Environmental Court makes its decision, the government must then give its position, which can be to either agree or disagree partly or completely. Finally, the municipality of Östhammar must also agree or disagree partly or completely. In other words, SKB has a long way to go, and several bridges to cross that could result in long delays, before their method and location gets final approval.

For more information see the following websites:,,,,

Source: Miles Goldstick
Contact: FMKK, Tegelviksgatan 40, 116 41 Stockholm. Sweden.
Tel: +46 8 - 84 14 90


India: uraniummining and social justice

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jharkandis Organization Against Radiation (JOAR)

The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd has applied for renewal of the mining lease for uranium and also for fresh allotment of 15 hectares of forest land for the construction of a tailing pond that will house the radioactive waste generated during the milling of uranium ore. The ore present in Jadugora in West Singhbhum district is of poor quality: 0.06% of natural uranium. Incidentally, this expansion plan is happening after the Government of India signed the Indo-US Nuclear deal and IAEA guidelines for nuclear co-operation with the Nuclear Supplier’s group.

Every day, more than three thousand tons of radioactive waste in slurry form is discharged from the uranium mill. While more than half the uranium in the ore would be extracted by the mill, all other major radionuclides in the uranium-chain, accounting to about 80% of the original radioactivity in the ore, will be found in the slurry. Burst of these pipes have almost become a routine event in UCIL. Such accidents and callous mismanagement after the accident have caused contamination of the people land and water sources.

The much-awaited public hearing by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) is over. There was lots of public and there were also lots of policemen and members of different security forces. For every person not in uniform, there was one person from the forces in uniform, some wielding batons, others with rifles and some in riot gear. UCIL has about 2000 permanent workers and nearly 1000 people who are either on casual or temporary employment. So the total number of beneficiaries is about 3000, if you add the other members in the families of the beneficiaries, then UCIL family has more than 15,000 people. Though most of the workers are exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, most of them consider themselves fortunate and lucky. That is quite expected in a country where the wage rates/returns in farming is very low and there is not any other job opportunity.

On May 26, 200 villagers of Matigoda entered the UCIL premises and started ploughing the land. Even though the land was acquired long back, the villagers were paying the tax. They were not paid any compensation. Nobody got a job either. The situation became tense. They were invited for a negotiation after few hours. They were taken to the local police station. The meeting lasted for a few hours and ended with some promises, but no document was signed.

The public hearing was held in the private land of UCIL, near the camp of the Central Industrial Security Forces. Early morning, hundreds of UCIL workers and other beneficiaries had occupied the chairs kept in the hall for the public hearing. The real public, who have lost their lands for the mines and whose health has been damaged due to radiation, had no place in the entire process.

The hearing was held to get the peoples’ consent for a capacity addition of 20% and for another tailing pond to house the radioactive mill tailing. The total tailing that will be let off in the pond will be about 850,000 tons per year. About 15 acres of forest land has also been sought for these. UCIL got all what they sought.

A UCIL sponsored group carrying different banners supporting UCIL and its activities came and entered in the venue and placed their banners. Some of these banners were carried by small children, who did not understand the meaning of what was written on them. One banner carried by the supporters read: “when compared with hunger, pollution is a small issue. Save UCIL”.

When JOAR (Jharkhandis Organization Against Radiation) and other groups carrying their banners were trying to enter the venue, UCIL supporters man-handled, few women activist were beaten up and people were pushed away. Some fell down. Police and other security forces were mute spectators to this denial of a place to sit and air their grievances. Finally, the company supporters and the forces pushed the villagers out of the hall.

No one was allowed to enter the hall and allow to speek, in this situation JOAR and other organization decided to boycott the public hearing. We also joined them with shouting slogans – “public hearing is farce” - “stop false public hearing”-“land water and forest is ours”, we came out and sat for a Dharna.

UCIL succeeded in convincing the workers that those who were critical of the project were working towards closing down the mining and milling activities in Jadugoda. The slogans shouted by the workers and other beneficiaries and the placards they were carrying all said about saving UCIL. Incidentally, the critics’ position that they are demanding safe operations for workers, people in the neighborhood and the ecop-system was unheard.

Around 11 AM, the General Manager of UCIL read out a document listing the details of the project. The GM appeared like reading from a science text book. There were technical terms like Becquerel, in his speech. A journalist who was covering the event asked one of us: what does a Becquerel mean? The presentation by the general manger lasted for about 30 minutes. After this, the organizers announced the names of the speakers from the ‘public’. Everybody was unanimous on one issue – UCIL provides jobs, food, clothing and houses. All talks about radiation is anti-national propaganda. UCIL has to be protected at any cost. There is no need to hear any viewpoint which is against the interests of the company.

JOAR and other organizations fighting on environmental issues related to radiation, livelihood issues related to loss of land due to mines and contamination of farmlands and water bodies decided to boycott the drama called public hearing, as there was no possibility of presenting the view of the affected people. Ghanashyam Biruli, Dumka Murmu and Charan Murmu of JOAR briefed the press. Among their demands are (a) no new uranium mine (b) bring the existing mine under the international safety guide lines (c) return of tribal land acquired earlier, but not utilized for mining (d) provide livelihood and rehabilitation to the displace people.(f) clean up of the contamination (g) an independent study about the environmental contamination and health effects among the people (h) continuous monitoring of the water bodies to ensure that the radionuclides do not seep into the aquifer, the life line of more than 100,000 people. The activists also reiterated their position that there is no compelling need to expand the capacity of UCIL as the country can now buy uranium from international market.

There have been several research studies conducted by independent experts showing adverse environmental and health impacts among the people involved in mining and the communities living downwind and downstream the facilities in Jadugoda. Besides the scientific studies, the plight of the local population has been captured in an award winning documentary film –Buddha Smiles at Jadugoda. These evidences cannot be ignored or dismissed as anti-national propaganda.

We saw that India is producing less than one percent of the total uranium produced in the world. Nowhere in the world can one find a uranium mine and mill in the midst of thickly populated villages. Here, the distance between the tailing pond and the residence of the communities is less than a few meters.

UCIL has been operating for over four decades now. Many of the social problems like the just compensation for the land acquired, cost of medical treatment for radiation-caused illnesses among the workers and the local population, contamination of land, water and air have not been addressed at all. UCIL has to realize its corporate responsibility towards the First People of Singhbhum district, who has been forced to make sacrifices for attaining nuclear capability

Source and contact: Jharkhandis Organization Against Radiation (JOAR)


Health Effects
Health studies were conducted by Dr Sanghamitra Gadekar of Anumukti and recently by the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, the Indian affiliate of the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). Conducted in two different phases, while one survey concentrates on villages within the radius of 2.5 km from the mines, a similar one was undertaken in villages about 30 km from the mining areas. A total of 2,118 households in the first category, while another 1,956 households were studied in the second category. According to the survey, more children - about 9.5 per cent of the newborns - are dying each year due to extreme physical deformity, primary sterility is becoming common with 9.6 per cent of women not being able to conceive even three years after marriage. Cancer deaths in nearby villages are about 2.87 per cent and 68.33 per cent people are dying before the age of 62.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report quotes only health studies conducted by UCIL. There is no mention about methodology or the details of the experts who conducted the study. According to those studies there are no abnormalities, whatsoever, which could be attributed to the operations of UCIL. While the independent researchers have published their reports in detail, the UCIL researchers have not made their reports public. As such, it is impossible to review them.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Drop in global nuclear output. Nuclear power plants provided 2601 billion kWh during 2008. This lowest figure for five years drops its contribution to world electricity supplies to an estimated 4%.

No new reactors started operation in 2008, but, according to the World Nuclear Association, construction did begin on ten units: China (six units), Russia (two) and South Korea (two).

World Nuclear Association, 29 May 2009

Sellafield – a lost cause..

In February, in an embarrassing case of remembering ‘where but not what’, operators of the Low Level Waste repository near Drigg had to resort to place an ad in a local newspaper asking past employees if they could remember what items of nuclear waste they had tumble-tipped into the site’s open trenches way back in the 1960’s & ‘70’s. Now, in an equally embarrassing reversal of misfortune – a case of ‘what but not where’, Sellafield operators admit that whilst they can describe two items of waste listed on their books at Sellafield - they can’t remember where they put it. Sellafield’s in-house Newsletter of April 29, reports that a routine stock take had identified that two storage cans containing a small quantity of legacy material were missing from their expected location. A detailed and extensive search was underway and  the incident had been classified at Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).

Whilst the May 8, edition of the Sellafield Newsletter makes no further mention of the loss, the local Whitehaven News newspaper helpfully reveals that the radioactively ‘hot’ storage cans, capable of giving off a high dose of radiation, are still missing and the search for them could take several more weeks. The cans, described as being the size of thermos flasks, can only be handled by remote control robotic equipment and were listed as being stored in a sealed cave within the Windscale Active Handling Facility which analyses old reactor fuel and where human entry is forbidden because of the high radiation levels.

Though Sellafield Ltd is clinging to the hope that the lost cans, described only as containing historic or legacy waste, have been moved to another secure facility on the site, they have so far offered no explanation as to how remotely controlled robots could have effected such a removal service unobserved by managers and workers alike, or by the site’s alert security services. The Regulators have been informed.

CORE Briefing, 8 May 2009

EDF calls for support for nuclear industry. New nuclear power stations will not be built in Britain unless the government provides financial support for the industry. According to the Financial Times, Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of the UK subsidiary of EDF, said that a “level playing field” had to be created that would allow the nuclear industry to compete with other low-emission electricity sources such as wind power.

However, Mr de Rivaz said the company still needed to assure its investors, which include the French government with an 85 per cent stake, that the investment made commercial sense. “We have a final investment decision to make in 2011 and, for that decision to give the go-ahead, the conditions need to be right,” he said. Mr de Rivaz suggested that the best way to support the nuclear industry would be to make sure penalties paid by rival fossil fuel power generators under the European Union’s emissions trading scheme were kept high enough to make nuclear investment attractive. Since the emissions trading scheme began operating in 2005, however, the price of the permits has proved highly volatile and has fallen sharply in the past year.

His comments call into question the government’s plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations, which ministers have insisted can be delivered without any additional subsidy.

Financial Times, 26 May 2009

German nuclear waste storage site developed illegally?

The salt dome at the Gorleben nuclear waste depot in north Germany was developed illegally into a permanent storage facility claims a newspaper, citing an internal assessment by the government agency that runs the depot. After first refusing to say whether the internal assessment exists, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) now denies that the salt deposit has already been made a final repository. And it also emerged that Angela Merkel, now German prime minister, in 1996 ignored scientific warnings by the environment ministry she then headed that keeping nuclear waste in the Gorleben salt was likely to contaminate regional drinking water supplies. Since work began on the underground facility in the 1980s, only permission for ‘exploration’ has been granted.

The May 28 edition of the daily Frankfurter Rundschau alleged that without official authorization, the costs of assessing the salt dome’s suitability were high because ’the construction of the permanent storage depot was begun parallel to the investigation’.  Although not wanting to confirm the existence of the document, the paper said, the agency did admit that costs had been higher than necessary. Some 1.5 billion Euro (US$ 2.13 billion) has been invested in the site.

Work on the Gorleben mine has been suspended since 2000, when the government decided to wait until 2010 to resume the controversial project.  The appearance of the documents has confirmed the doubts of nuclear energy opponents, who all along have alleged that Gorleben was earmarked as final repository before the safety of the salt was adequately investigated.

Diet Simon, Email 29 May 2009

U.S.: Obama signs US-UAE nuclear deal.

President Barack Obama gave official backing to the agreement allowing the U.S. to share nuclear technology with the United Arab Emirates. Obama at first planned to sign the deal in April but a number of lawmakers voiced concern, particularly following the airing on U.S. television networks of a video showing an Abu Dhabi sheikh brutally beating an Afghan businessman (see Nuclear monitor 688, 'InBrief'). Some lawmakers argued Abu Dhabi doesn't have enough legal safeguards against leakage of nuclear technologies. U.S. officials said they viewed the nuclear agreement and video as separate issues. The Obama administration has praised the legal infrastructure Abu Dhabi is developing in support of its nuclear program as well its close cooperation with the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA. The U.A.E. has renounced its right to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, which, according to U.S. officials, minimizes the risk of nuclear materials being diverted for military purposes. Once the State Department submits the U.A.E. legislation to Congress, lawmakers will have 90 days to amend or seek to kill it. Some U.S. representatives, including Republican vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have said they will fight it. Some say the deal could spark a nuclear arms race across the Mideast.

Wall Street Journal, 21 May 2009

Alberta, Canada: Pro-nuclear vandals strike.

The nuclear debate in Peace River is no longer peaceful. Pro-nuclear vandals attacked a trailer used by nuclear opponents to get their message out. The pro-nuclear vandals painted a swastika and profanity on the side of the trailer. They also threw Molotov cocktails to further destroy the sign. The damage to the sign was bad enough but the situation could have been much worse. They cut the farmer's fence along highway 743 to get into the trailer. The horses in the field could have easily got on the highway and been involved in a collision with a vehicle. It was fortunate that the flames from the Molotov cocktail did not ignite the surrounding dry grass as the ensuing fire could have easily travelled to the farmer's home which was only 200 feet (70 meters) away. The fire could have spread a long way before anyone noticed as the vandals attacked during the middle of the night. This attack on our message came a day after two nuclear opponents received a death threat because of letters they wrote to the newspapers voicing their concerns about the impact the nuclear reactors will have on their farms. The police are investigating both occurrences.

Bruce Power announced they have set aside Can$50 million (US$45m, 32m Euro) to promote the construction of a nuclear reactor at Peace River. Grass-roots organizations and community residents have virtually no resources to publicize the nuclear information that Bruce Power doesn't want the public to know about. The trailer that was attacked by "pro-nuclear vandals" used up the majority of our resources.

Peace River residents are being asked to be the nuclear sacrifice zone for Alberta yet the local, provincial and national media have provided scant coverage of our concerns. This week, it was vandalism and death threats. Will someone have to be hurt or killed before our struggle becomes newsworthy?

Email: 10 May 2009, Pat McNamara,

Reliability of risk assessments for geological disposal of nuclear waste

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
W.J. Slooten

Some aspects regarding the reliability of risk assessments for geological disposal of nuclear waste are investigated. The input for the study is given by the opinions of some interviewed Dutch experts and existing literature. The Dutch risk assessment PROSA is used as an example, but the conclusions are seen to be valid more generally. In the PROSA study an integrated risk criterion is used. It is found that apart from its benefits the use of this criterion can lead to a too absolute interpretation of the risk figures, suggesting a larger reliability than can be justified.

The various uncertainties in calculating risk figures for this subject are discussed. One main source of uncertainty is dealing with very long time scales that are relevant in case of geological disposal. The farther in the future we try to predict the behaviour of the burial site with the waste, the larger are the effects of the assumptions and uncertainties. The assumptions and uncertainties fall into two classes: parametric and conceptual. Risk studies usually deal pretty well with parametric uncertainties, but conceptual uncertainties are often not dealt with or even not perceived. In any case they are very difficult to grasp. Conceptual assumptions limit the reliability of risk studies often in an unknown way. The usual industrial practice of dealing with risks (known or unknown) is to monitor the system all the time it is operating. However, for a nuclear waste repository this is not possible, because of the extremely long time scales. This puts a question mark behind the very concept of permanent geological disposal. Therefore it is advisable to postpone a decision about permanent disposal and wait until we have a better view on the safest solution. For now it is better to focus on a relatively safe interim solution for the next decades. Also it is common sense to stop the production of nuclear waste as soon as possible simply because we do not have a safe solution for it.

1. Introduction

Most countries that produce nuclear waste see permanent disposal in the deep underground as the primary option to deal with the waste. The idea is to isolate the waste from the biosphere for a very long time until the radioactivity has almost disappeared. Because of the very long half-lives of several components of the waste the isolation period should be of the order of a hundred thousand years. To evaluate the safety of geological disposal many assessments have been carried out. In these assessments the possible geological developments of the storage site and the behavior of the waste in connection with the possible release of the waste in the biosphere are studied.

In the Netherlands the government initiated in 1984 a research programme called OPLA (OPberging te LAnd, disposal on land) to study the safety of disposal of nuclear waste in underground rock salt formations. In the framework of the OPLA programme in 1993 an assessment was published called PROSA (PRObabilistic Safety Assessment)[1]. This study evaluated the safety of underground repositories using a radiological risk criterion.

Also in 1993 the Dutch minister of environmental protection put forward the additional criterion that disposal of high toxic waste is only allowed when the storage is retrievable, this means that the waste can be recovered if desired. To study the consequences of this additional criterion, the commission CORA (Commissie OPberging Radioactief Afval, radioactive waste disposal commission) carried out a research programme ‘Terugneembare berging, een begaanbaar pad?’ (Retrievable storage, a passable path?)[2]. This report was published in 2001.

In 2009 the Dutch minister of environmental protection declared that this year a new research programme will start, called TOBRA (Terugneembare Ondergrondse Berging Radioactief Afval, retrievable underground storage of radioactive waste) where the technical and ethical aspects of retrievable storage will be further worked out to support a final decision on the storage of nuclear waste. This programme will last for 8 to 10 years.

In this article we want to explore the reliability of risk assessments for geological disposal of nuclear waste. The PROSA study from 1993 will serve as an example. PROSA was meant to lay a foundation for a risk based method to evaluate the safety of disposal concepts. In the CORA report, that focused mainly on retrievability, this method was not developed much further. Without doubt future research will build on the foundation laid down by PROSA. But how reliable is this foundation?

'Salt formations currently are being considered as hosts only for reprocessed nuclear materials because heat-generating waste, like spent nuclear fuel, exacerbates a process by which salt can rapidly deform. This process could potentially cause problems for keeping drifts stable and open during the operating period of a repository.' (U.S. NRC, Waste Confidence Decision Update 2008).

In the period 1995 – 1997 the author held various interviews with Dutch experts in fields related with this subject. These expert opinions form the core this article. In the interviews many times the question of the reliability of risk assessments came up as a point of discussion. Can we have any confidence that our predictions have a correspondence with what may actually happen in the very far future?

The question of the reliability of risk assessments was also recognized by a commission of the Dutch Health Counsel which published in 1995 a report ‘Niet alle risico’s zijn gelijk’ (Not all risks are equal)[3]. Dealing with the notion of risk, the report concluded that in fact two levels of uncertainty must be distinguished. The first level includes the uncertainties in the many parameters used in the model calculations. The second level of uncertainty is more general and fundamental and includes a consideration of the uncertainties of the methods and models. The report calls this last kind of uncertainty “often the most uncertain of the various kinds of uncertainty and seldom expressible in measure and number” (translated from Dutch by the author). In this article we will focus on this second kind of uncertainty.

2. The Dutch PROSA study

PROSA studied disposal concepts in a general way, working with general models for salt formations and disposal mines following the decision of the Dutch government that the first phase of the OPLA research project should not contain field explorations but should limit itself to desk studies and laboratory research. The aim of the PROSA project was to evaluate the post-closure safety of some possible disposal concepts, which should be used to recommend further relevant research.

The PROSA study is a scenario analysis. A set of scenarios is studied that lead to the release of radionuclides into the biosphere and subsequent exposure to radioactivity of human beings. The difficulty of a scenario analysis is to find a set of scenarios that is more or less complete, and covers the most important possible developments of the repository with the waste. PROSA develops a method of scenario selection to find a relevant set. Therefore the repository is seen as a multi-barrier system. The waste has to overcome three barriers to reach the biosphere: the engineered barriers (waste form, container, borehole backfill, etc.), the isolation shield (the body of the salt formation) and the overburden (the geological formations between the salt formation and the biosphere, including the groundwater system). It is assumed that for each barrier there are two possible states: the barrier is present or the barrier is not present (bypassed). Having three barriers and two possible states of each barrier there are eight possible multi-barrier states. Each multi-barrier state is identified by a unique combination of present and bypassed barriers.

Each multi-barrier state is the result of one or more scenarios that lead to this state. For each scenario the primary processes that attack or destroy the barriers that are bypassed in that state are identified. Secondary processes that influence the transport and the state of the radionuclides supplement the primary ones. The processes are chosen from a list of about 150 so called FEPs (Features, Events and Processes) that are selected from existing literature. FEPs that are not relevant for the Dutch situation or that have a very low probability are left out. Although in most scenarios one or more barriers are at first not bypassed, eventually every scenario leads in the end to the release of radionuclides into the biosphere as a result of the natural geologic evolution of the site.

In this way a list of 22 scenarios is found that is assumed to cover the most important ways in which radionuclides might escape from the repository and reach the biosphere. The 22 scenarios are grouped into three distinct families. In subrosion (subsurface dissolution) scenarios the dominant process is the slow subsurface dissolution of rock salt in groundwater. In flooding scenarios (also called water intrusion scenarios) the groundwater enters the repository through fractures in the salt body. In human intrusion scenarios the barriers are bypassed by future human activities like drilling, etc. where it is supposed that future generations might use the geological formation for other purposes, unaware of the existence of the waste.

Only 7 scenarios are selected for further analysis. Scenarios that contain processes for which no proper models are yet available are left out. This is the case for glaciation (the effects of a glacial period) and for gas production as a result of chemical processes around the containers. For other scenarios it was decided not to analyze them in detail because it was assumed that they are ‘covered’ by another scenario. This means that the results are expected to be the same. This is done for the scenarios where radiation damage plays a role. Radiation damage is the radio-chemical change of the crystal structure of the rock salt with the result that radiation energy from the waste is captured and stored in the surrounding salt. Under some conditions the energy can be released explosively. It is assumed that these explosions only can occur in the first phase of the storage period (the first thousand years). According to the PROSA study the effects are limited to the direct neighborhood of the waste so this will not result in cracks that extend to the groundwater system. Because of the creep of the rock salt these cracks will close again. So by the time that the groundwater reaches the burial place by the natural process of subrosion the effects of radiation damage are assumed to be gone. Therefore the subrosion scenarios with radiation damage are expected to give the same results as the subrosion scenarios without radiation damage.

PROSA is a probabilistic safety assessment. This means that probability distributions are used for various model parameters that are not known accurately. PROSA does not calculate probabilities of occurrence for the different scenarios. The question that PROSA tries to answer is: do scenarios exist that lead to an unacceptable radiological risk in the future? For each scenario the radiological risk is calculated, assuming that the different steps of the scenario occur. The radiological risk is defined as the probability of a person to die as result of the exposure to radiation. I.e. the report deals primarily with consequence analysis. Another aim of the report is to carry out a sensitivity analysis. This means determining which input parameters for the different models have the strongest effect on the future exposure of human beings to radioactivity.

Only for the human intrusion scenarios some estimates are given for the probability of occurrence, because these scenarios are the only ones that are found to lead to unacceptable levels of future exposure. These probabilities are used to estimate the risks of these scenarios.

The conclusions of PROSA are that the subrosion scenarios and the flooding scenarios lead to very low to negligible radiological risks for future generations. Only the risks for human intrusion scenarios are not negligible, although they are expected to be low. For all scenarios considered the health risk is less than 10-6/a. The sensitivity analysis leads to the identification of some characteristics of the repository and the geological formation that are most relevant for the safety of the system. A low internal rise rate of the salt formation and the possibility of deep disposal are the safety relevant characteristics of the salt formation. The properties of the overburden (the geological layers between the salt formation and the surface) were considered not to be safety relevant characteristics.

3. Expert opinions on the reliability of risk analysis

The interviewed experts provided valuable information about risk analysis from the viewpoint of their specific disciplines. They also expressed their (sometimes personal) opinions about geological disposal of nuclear waste or related subjects. The method to use interviews as part of the field research is more often used in the social sciences than in the natural sciences, although there are examples in the natural sciences as well. For example V.M. Chernousenko[4] makes use of interviews to analyze in detail the causes of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986. The interview method used in this paper is based on the narrative interview that is developed in psychology (see for example F. Schütze[5]). R. Franke[6] further developed this method. In the narrative interview the interviewed persons are stimulated to express their opinions and (also personal) viewpoints on the subject. In this way apart from the factual information that is obtained, the interviewer also gets an impression of the viewpoints, tensions and interests within the scientific community and greater society in relationship with the subject.

Here follows a short introduction of the interviewed experts. The names of the experts are made fictitious to give them more freedom to express their opinions. The interviews were taken in Dutch. The citations were translated and edited by the author.

The interview with Mr. A. Brouwer took place in April 1995. He is a geologist and researched on location the geological characteristics of many salt formations and mines in the world. He showed a lot of motivation to express his views about the geological side of storage of nuclear waste. Here he showed more a practical then a theoretical attitude towards the subject.

Mr. C. Van Dijk is a civil engineer. The interview took place in June 1995. He showed himself very engaged in the subject of nuclear waste. As a civil engineer he has a profound knowledge of the technical side of the subject, but he was also very aware of the social tensions. He knew many arguments from proponents as well as opponents of underground storage and developed his own standpoint. He showed a lot of concern for a fruitful discussion between the various groups to develop workable solutions.

The mathematician Mr. E. Froon was interviewed in August 1995. He is an expert in the field of model calculations. He showed himself to be a proponent of geological disposal of nuclear waste. He formulated clear and self-assured positions, with a somewhat detached attitude towards the subject.

Mr. I. Jacobs is a physicist and works for an international environmental organisation. He was interviewed in January 1996. He is specialised in nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. The opinions he expressed were well in accord with the standpoint of his organisation, as can be expected given his job.

The interview with Mrs. S. Terbeek took place in May 1997. She is a chemical technologist and external safety advisor at an engineering office. In the interview she showed concern for the people that might be affected in the future by radiological risks. This motivated a critical attitude towards different research projects on the subject.

Mr. U. Viehoff was interviewed in October 1997. He is a mathematician and an expert on risk evaluation for water protection systems. During the interview he was very cautious to stay within the confines of his field of water protection. What he said was relevant for storage of nuclear waste, but he could not be persuaded to express any direct opinions about this subject.

3.1. The radiological risk criterion

The PROSA report uses the radiological risk criterion to evaluate the safety of underground repositories. The use of this criterion in the OPLA program was rather new in the discussion on the theme of geological disposal in the Netherlands. Before 1984 the proposed safety requirements for possible burial sites were of a geological nature like the depth of the salt formation, the existence and thickness of a caprock, the annual rising rate of the geological formation, etc. With the initiation of the OPLA program by the Dutch government in 1984 the emphasis was put on the radiological risk criterion and the geological criteria were valued of secondary importance. It is mentioned that the initiation of the risk criterion had a profound influence on the societal discussion about geological disposal in the Netherlands that was going on from 1970 on. For example Damveld et al.[7] have accused the Dutch government that by introducing the radiological risk criterion attention was diverted from the more concrete geological requirements that were heavily under fire at that time by the environmental movement. With the shift from geological to radiological criteria the research programs and also the societal discussion had a tendency to become more abstract and general. The discussion concerned not so much the suitability of actual geological sites, but ‘generic’ geological formations in combination with ‘disposal concepts’.

Was the introduction of the radiological criterion an escape from the problematic geological criteria, or were there definite scientific reasons for its introduction and did it lead to a more reliable analysis? I asked the mathematician Mr. E. Froon what according to his opinion was the reason why the researchers of the OPLA project started to use the radiological risk criterion.

“We consider underground disposal of nuclear waste because we presume to be able in this way to bring the danger to an acceptably low level. That is the goal of underground disposal. In the seventies we had no access to an integrated calculation model to investigate to what extent we could fulfil this demand. Therefore we used partial criteria. For each compartment of the disposal facility certain requirements were set and it was presumed that then the facility as a whole is safe enough in relation with isolating the waste from the people. But how do we weigh the relative importance of the partial criteria? It may be that we reject a site because it does not meet the requirements of one of the partial criteria. But as a whole it may be that this site has the best shielding properties. What is of more importance, the fact that the containers have a thickness of 5 mm, that there exists a caprock on top of the salt formation, that the formation is moving a little bit, or that it has certain geohydrological properties? At the moment we have the calculation tools to work with one integrated criterion we no longer need these partial criteria. It is then possible to evaluate every disposal concept in terms of future radiological exposure.” (interview E.Froon)

I confronted my interview partner with the following fact. In the days of the geological criteria it was recognized that none of the geological sites considered met the requirements. They were all rejected[8]. The results of OPLA on the other hand showed that all disposal concepts that were studied fell well within the levels of acceptable risk. Can we say that now suddenly all these sites are found to be suitable after all?

“That is a little bit true, but at the same time it is not true at all. OPLA worked with very little site specific information. In fact three generic formations were studied: salt layers, salt pillows and salt pillars. These formations, when they are big enough, were found in principle to be suitable for a safe and technically possible disposal of nuclear waste. When we look in the future at specific sites it is not certain of course, that they will meet the test. It is possible that strange unexpected facts will become known. In that sense your statement is not true. But on the other hand your black and white statement has more truth than is suggested from what I just said. On the basis of the earlier geologic criteria for each site there was something wrong with one or the other of the partial criteria. But when we calculate the risk with our present models, on the basis of the same information, then we find that they all meet the test of having a very low radiological risk. Then I ask the question: on what where those earlier criteria based?” (interview E.Froon)

So in Mr. Froon’s opinion the reason to use the radiological risk criterion is to have one integral measure to evaluate the safety of a disposal concept. Geological aspects of a formation are incorporated in this integral measure. But we must keep in mind that PROSA does not say anything about actual sites, it deals only with generic formations. How important is this aspect? The geologist Mr. A. Brouwer has a definite opinion about this.

“We know of the Dutch salt domes that there are large site specific differences. There are large differences in depth of the salt formation, existence and composition of caprock, lithology of the rock formations above the salt, geohydrology, tectonic and geological history. Therefore it is impossible to judge if a formation is suitable for underground disposal without doing extensive research on location for several years. In my opinion it is a weak point of the OPLA project that no site specific research is done.” (interview A.Brouwer)

So it may very well be that the tendency of the discussion about geological disposal to become more abstract is not so much caused by the implementation of the risk criterion. It may be caused by the fact that the OPLA project only studied generic situations and in that way diverged from actual situations. The radiological risk criterion could also be applied to studies of actual disposal sites. It is ironic that the environmental movement itself caused the rejection of research of actual sites, as was made clear by the civil engineer Mr. C. van Dijk.

“To obtain the political ‘yes’ for the project the beginning should not be too threatening. Only desk studies should be done, but no field studies. Only information was used that was already publicly known. Even results from drillings of oil companies that were not publicly known because of competition were not used. In fact it was initially intended to use this information, but the environmentalists resisted strongly. They occupied drilling plants, so the exploration of oil and gas became endangered. The minister then decided that the information of oil and gas drillings should not be used. Under pressure of the environmentalists the most difficult decision, namely the carrying out of drillings, was postponed. OPLA followed the directive of the minister and did not carry out site specific research. Even non-penetrating methods like gravimetry were not used.” (interview C.van Dijk)

Mr. Froon observed another problem with the radiological risk criterion.

“But now we have another problem. The risks that are calculated now are all very low, well below the standards set by the government. The result is that the risk criterion does not serve as a discriminating factor between different disposal concepts. Say the standard is 10 and we compare the results of two concepts with risks 0.9 and 1.5. There is a difference between these two figures, but compared to the standard of 10 the difference is hardly meaningful. So therefore the risk criterion does not work very well in discriminating between the two concepts. Therefore we need extra measures apart from the risk criterion. Although the risk figures indicate that the isolation is all right, many people have the feeling that it is not. There is a big difference between the results of the calculations and the feeling of the people. It is important to develop measures that relate to the reasons why people think that it is not all right. So it is possible to compare concepts that are the same in terms of risk, but not in terms of acceptance by the people. We can think of all kinds of disposal concepts, but they should be accepted. We need solutions that provide sufficient isolation and that can be carried out because they are accepted.” (interview E.Froon)

What kind of extra measures do you think of? Are they different from the earlier geological criteria?

“Yes, very different. Think about retrievability, choices of host rock (salt, clay, etc.), or preliminary transmutation of the actinides, etc. Then we can say that we did our job better, we have a better option, although in terms of risk it may not be different. But we score better in connection with the question ‘did we do everything possible to make it more safe?’. People fear the waste. We do not yet succeed to catch that fear in the risk criterion. Apparently the fear is based on something else. People do not trust the results of the calculations. Maybe we can meet these feelings by showing that we did all that is possible, that we used all the present possibilities of technology, to make it as safe as possible. So we must try to weigh the concepts in terms of ability to realize them.” (interview E.Froon)


Transmutation does not eliminate the need for a repository for high-level waste and spent fuel!

So we have an integrated criterion, calculated risks that are so low that we cannot compare different concepts, and even more public distrust. I asked an expert in industrial safety, the chemical technologist Mrs. S. Terbeek if the quantitative method of risk evaluation that was used in the PROSA study is a usual method in safety studies in industry.


“Yes, certainly. Safety reports in industry are structured in a uniform way according to manuals made by governmental organizations. The history of these procedures goes back to 1988. In that year the Dutch government issued the Large Accidents Resolution. Companies handling hazardous materials were obliged to do a safety analysis. The analyses carried out by various different research institutions were very difficult to compare. The government felt the need to prescribe a uniform method. This method became the basis for obtaining licenses. Also various standards were set, for example the probability to die as the result of a certain industrial activity for an individual should be less than 10-6 per year. A probability of 10-8 is regarded as negligible.” (interview S.Terbeek)

Is the Netherlands progressive in this approach?

“Yes, very much! The Netherlands has chosen a very quantitative approach to safety management. But remember that the meaning of the quantitative figures is the ability to compare results! If all research institutions use comparable methods, the results can be compared. But the figures themselves depend very much on the application of models, failure probabilities, etc. There are many assumptions connected with these matters. If we choose them differently, the results are different. Do not take these figures too absolutely. The point is that we want people to act as safely as possible, within the limits of technology and economics. So do not pin yourself down on such figures. The matter is to compare alternatives, not more than that. It is also interesting to see that not always the same standards are used. The figure of 10-6 that I mentioned earlier is a workable standard in the industry. This standard is technologically and economically realistic. For safety in transport on the road of hazardous materials this standard is not useful. The risks in traffic are found to be higher, but we accept these risks. Therefore the standards in traffic are set a factor of 10 higher. We could do something like this in the case of nuclear waste, only in the other direction. Why should we use the standards of the industry? Given the large number of uncertainties in connection with nuclear waste we could easily argue to use standards that are stronger. Standards are relative!” (interview S.Terbeek)

So in the opinion of Mrs. Terbeek one should not take the calculated risk figures too absolutely. If we change our assumptions during the calculations, the figures change. The risk figures are mere instruments to compare results. Also the standards are relative. Here we may find the solution for the problem that Mr. Froon mentioned in using the risk figures to compare disposal concepts. If we choose more stringent standards in case of geological disposal of nuclear waste it may become possible again to compare results. Setting more stringent standards is justified by the large number of uncertainties that are mentioned by Mrs. Terbeek in the case of geological disposal of nuclear waste.

'In the U.S. politics, not science, has driven the Yucca Mountain Project from the very beginning. Yucca was singled out for the country's first repository not because it had suitable geology, but rather because Nevada was seen as a politically vulnerable state. In fact, from 1987 until today, safety and environmental protection regulations have been repeatedly weakened or eliminated altogether to keep the ill-conceived, dangerous Yucca proposal afloat.' (NIRS, March 2006).

In conclusion we can say in connection with the reliability of risk analysis that the introduction of the radiological risk criterion has two sides. On the one hand the criterion allows an integrated analysis that can be regarded as more reliable. On the other hand the radiological risk parameters can be interpreted as too absolute, suggesting a more reliable result than can be justified. There are reasons to limit the use of the criterion to compare the results of calculations for different disposal concepts. Also the standards are not absolute. In the case of disposal of nuclear waste there are reasons to adopt more stringent standards to account for the larger uncertainties. The reason why the discussion on disposal of nuclear waste became more abstract does not seem to have been caused by the introduction of the radiological risk criterion. Instead it is due to the choice to study generic formations and not specific sites. The criterion could also be used in site-specific studies.

Why is the disposal of nuclear waste thought to be connected with larger uncertainties than the more common industrial practices? We will deal with this question below.

3.2. The predictability of geological processes

To evaluate the safety of a nuclear waste repository, we have to deal with very long periods of time. The waste is dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. These are geological time scales. To what extent is it possible to predict the development of the repository containing the waste over such long periods of time? I asked the mathematician Mr. E. Froon his opinion about the extrapolation of geological processes in the very far future.

“I am not a geologist, but I have ideas about this. Not all geologists endorse the statement anymore that one is able to predict the future on the basis of the past, one to one. I think most geologists accept that we can use the past and the present as information to know how geological processes will develop in the future. A principle that is generally accepted in physics is, that if the boundary conditions are unchanged, processes develop like they developed in the past. So with disposal concepts we must take care that in the future the conditions will not be essentially different from the geological past. So the more we take care that temperature changes are sufficiently small, the stresses are small, etc., the more exact we can say that processes like the rising of the salt formation or the progress of subrosion will be the same as in the past. One expects the geology of the future to behave the same as in the past. For example one can design a model for the process of subrosion, the dissolution of the salt in the groundwater. This model can be validated with data from the past. Then one can reasonably expect that one can use this model for the calculation of the subrosion in the future. This does not mean that the rate of subrosion will stay the same as today. In the past there were irregularities, and so one can expect this to be the case for the future. If the boundary conditions do not deviate much, one reasonably expects the same developments in the future.” (interview E.Froon)

How does the geologist Mr. A. Brouwer think about the predictability of geological processes?

“Future predictions with time scales of millions of years are nonsense, then you are fooling yourself. There may be glacial ages, the sea level may rise, etc. The probability that there is ten meters of water above our head or a hundred meters of ice is larger than the probability that a salt pillar reaches the surface. It is relative. I think that future people do not care very much about radioactive waste deep under their feet when they get ten meters of water over their heads. One cannot compare these situations in terms of fears, risks, etc.” (interview A.Brouwer)

He also is rather critical about the extrapolation of geological processes.

“My objection to the scenarios of the OPLA studies is that the researchers start from averaged processes. For example they speak of diapirism (upward movement of the salt dome) of 0.1 mm/year averaged over ten millions of years. If one averages over periods of millions of years one will always find values of about 0.1 mm. But that does not mean that the rising rate has always had that value. In Germany we find salt domes where the dissolution of the top of the salt formation in the ground water progresses with centimeters per year. This will not last very long (on a geological time scale) but if it lasts one thousand years, the effects are considerable and in fact more important than the effects of the smooth averaged processes of the scenarios of OPLA. No one can deny that such a process may occur in the Netherlands within five hundred years.” (interview A.Brouwer).

What then in his opinion does make sense if we want to evaluate risks of underground disposal?

“I think we should consider short time scales and specific locations to get a more realistic picture. With the help of site specific research we can say a lot about the geological status and stability of a salt formation for the next two hundred years.” (interview A.Brouwer)

Mr. Froon observed another problem in the case of disposal of nuclear waste. We do not have a totally undisturbed geological development.

“In connection with the waste, there are many processes that are initiated by the waste, like giving off heat and radiation. The highest intensity of these processes occurs in the first stage of the disposal period. So in the beginning is the highest disturbance of the geology. With experiments we can study these intense processes of the first stage. With experiments lasting one to three years we can obtain a lot of information necessary to validate the models describing the processes. We can also use these models for the later stages when the intensity of these processes is less. There is some discussion about the problem how to do this, but generally one agrees that the disturbances of the geology are of less importance at the later stages of the disposal period. Only for radiation damage there are some small indications (only very small) that the effects may become more important at later stages.” (interview E.Froon)

For the civil engineer Mr. C. van Dijk the effect of the waste on its environment is very important.

“The interaction between the waste and the host rock should be the argument of the environmental movement, but they do not bring this point to the foreground. Our starting point is a stable underground that stays stable. That is the reason to store waste in it. We have a problem if the presence of the waste threatens the stability. Stability threatening factors are heat, radiation damage and gas production. There is still a lot unknown about these processes. This should be investigated further.” (interview C.van Dijk)

How should these processes be investigated? The experts had rather different opinions about this. Mr Froon:

“The way to deal with this is by developing models on the basis of laboratory experiments and extrapolate them to the far future. There is no other way, because we can do no experiments over such long periods of time. This is the proper method, we have nothing better yet.” (interview E.Froon)

Could it be useful to use the first hundred years of the disposal to do observations to validate our models for the interaction of the waste with the salt?

“No, this seems to me not the appropriate method. A measurement period of a hundred years in situ does not give more information than laboratory experiments of a few years. It is even better to validate a model in the laboratory than with in situ experiments. In the laboratory we can design intelligently chosen experiments to test a model under extreme circumstances and derive precise values for the model parameters. A model that is tested in this way is better suited to deal with very long periods.” (interview E.Froon)

Mr. Van Dijk:

"The retrievable stage of the storage can be used as an extended research period. We can check if the processes involved with the waste develop as predicted. Models are not sacred with respect to reliability. They have been tested in the laboratory during only a few years. Even if the theory has small deviations from reality, long periods of time may result in considerable deviations. If we can perform in situ measurements for more than a hundred years, the predictions become more reliable. So already for reasons of research a retrievable period has great advantages. If something happens that is not desirable the waste can be recovered. The decision to store the waste permanently is then postponed one hundred to two hundred years in the future. At that time there is much more knowledge to justify such a decision than at this moment. I think it is a little arrogant to presume that our generation can say definite things about the risks of underground storage. An important, almost ethical aim is that we do not saddle up the next generations with the problem of the storage. Therefore I should say be very reserved to make a definite choice now.” (interview C.van Dijk)

From the foregoing discussion it becomes clear that the interaction processes between the waste and the host rock introduce a considerable uncertainty to our predictions of the future development of an underground nuclear waste repository. This uncertainty adds up to the uncertainties of the undisturbed geological development of the site. The experts have different opinions on the question of how to obtain more knowledge of these processes, but it is clear that uncertainties will remain.

In this connection I asked the opinion of Mrs. Terbeek how in the OPLA project one dealt with the interaction processes. For example, how it is that the scenarios where radiation damage plays a dominant role are “covered” within other scenarios.

“I think that this covering of certain scenarios is very critical. Exactly those processes that are difficult to understand are covered in this way. We should be very careful. We should only cover a scenario by another scenario when we have some certainty how these processes work. If we do not have this certainty we should think of experiments to get this certainty. We are dealing after all with the fate of a lot of people. It is not necessary to know everything about such a process, but we must be sure that the effects are negligible. This we must be able to justify.” (interview S.Terbeek)

Minoru Ozima[9] discusses in his book “Geohistory” the reliability of research results of these interaction processes. In his view there is a fundamental limitation for the methods of physics and chemistry when geological time scales are involved. In laboratory experiments one has to simulate the long time scale by changing parameters. In the case of radiation damage for example, one can simulate the effects of a certain radiation dose over a long period by using in the laboratory a much higher dose rate than in reality. The desired dose is then reached in a manageable time. Ozima argues that it can not be excluded that factors that are not important in the laboratory experiments become very important or even dominant on a geological time scale. These factors stay invisible in the laboratory and are therefore not incorporated in our models. The extrapolation of the model yields erroneous results. According to Ozima a reliable model for geological time scales on the basis of the traditional physical research methods is impossible. He suggests that the geological time scale necessitates a different approach.

“The significance of the geological time scale that is the most fundamental characteristic of geohistorical phenomena can hardly be overemphasized. Applying conventional approaches that have been enormously successful in physical and chemical research may not be very rewarding when dealing with geohistorical phenomena. A different approach must be sought to understand geohistorical phenomena, (otherwise) few significant results can be expected. An original method is necessary in order to understand these phenomena. This is the method of seeking in nature “fossil” records of geohistorical phenomena, and using these to throw light on these phenomena. (…) Owing to its “historical” nature, geohistorical research provides us with a very useful lead to forecasting the future of the earth. Geohistory is still a fledgling discipline, but it seems to hint at its future as a vital field in earth science.”[10]

For the storage of nuclear waste we should look for a “fossil” example of a nuclear waste repository. Indeed one such example exists, namely the Oklo natural nuclear reactor. Because of the anomalous isotopic ratio of the uranium in the Oklo mine in Gabon, scientists had to conclude that nearly two thousand million years ago natural fission processes occurred in this place. Some of the resulting products of this process still can be found. In the light of our discussion it would be interesting to investigate at Oklo the interaction processes between the waste and the rock, like radiation damage. This would contribute to our knowledge of these processes, even though the host rock material in our country is very different from the minerals in the vicinity of the Oklo natural reactor.

In conclusion we have seen that the geological time scales that are inherent with geological disposal introduce serious limitations to the reliability of our predictions of future processes. Especially the interactions of the waste with the host rock are difficult to model. There is still a lot unknown about these processes and the farther in the future we try to predict, the less reliable our models are. Therefore it is no good practice to sweep these processes under the rug in our risk evaluations.

3.3. Dealing with risk in practice: failure probabilities

Talking with Mrs. Terbeek about the validation of models we came upon the subject of dealing with risk in practice. The notion of failure probability is the central issue.

“We should make a difference between the physical models and the failure probabilities of the technical systems, like waste containers, etc. Over a given period a container has a certain failure probability, a probability that the waste is released. After the release the physical models come into play to describe how the waste will spread. In my opinion the physical models are the most reliable ones. Many measurements have been done, so these models are validated rather well. The only question is connected with the use of very long periods of time, associated with underground disposal of nuclear waste. Is it possible to say anything about a period of a thousand years? Periods of fifty or a hundred years are workable. There are measurements available of such periods. For example a factory spilled waste onto the ground for a period of fifty years. We can measure what happened to the waste in these fifty years. So it is possible to validate the models. But what does this mean for a period of one thousand years? Will it behave similarly? The failure probability of technical systems is another story. These probabilities are always based on case studies, experience from the past. If we have hardly no case studies for a certain technical system, the failure probabilities are very uncertain.” (interview S.Terbeek)

Can you give examples where estimates of failure probabilities were given that had to be corrected considerably after new empirical facts became known?

“Yes, this definitely happened with estimates of risk for transport of hazardous materials on the road. In 1993 a study was started to estimate the probability of an accident on the road. A number of scenarios were defined based on a probability over probability approach. What is the probability of a leak? And if there is a leak, then what is the probability that it is a big leak? And if we have a big leak, then what is the probability that this will lead to an explosion? In this way the end-probabilities for severe accidents were calculated. In the following years more research was done to find out what really happened on the Dutch roads. They started to differentiate between highways and smaller roads; they looked in more detail at the accidents that happened; they looked at what happened when explosive escapes occurred. It appeared that a number of scenarios had to be modified considerably. For example it appeared that out of ten big accidents only three led to an explosion, while at first it was supposed that all big accidents led to an explosion. So this assumption was not correct. Some failure probabilities were corrected with a factor of 15, and this happened after a period of empirical research of only four years. This means that scenarios should be tested empirically, otherwise they are very uncertain.” (interview S.Terbeek)

As we see from Mrs. Terbeek’s reactions the concept of failure probability is used in the discussions about technical systems. But what happens in geological systems? Are natural barriers fundamentally different from engineered barriers? According to Garrick and Kaplan[11] the only difference is the complexity. A natural barrier is more complex and therefore more difficult to “specify” (understand and model) than an engineered barrier. But a natural barrier may fail as well as an engineered barrier, so for our discussion there is not a fundamental difference.

To deepen the theme of failure probabilities, I conducted an interview with Mr. U. Viehoff, an expert on risk evaluation for flood protection systems. For centuries the Dutch population has been struggling with the risk of floods. Large parts of the country are below sea level and protected by dikes and dunes. On several occasions the sea broke through and destroyed villages and large parts of the country. This happened for the last time in 1953. Also the rivers can be dangerous. In 1995 the river Meuse flooded as a result of heavy rainfall in Western Europe. In 1996 thousands of people in the central region of the Netherlands were evacuated to safe places because the river Rhine and its tributaries were on the verge of flooding. How did the Dutch people learn to deal with the risk of flooding and what can we learn from this in connection with our subject?

Mr. Viehoff told me that after the big flood of 1953 the defence against the flooding was taken up much more systematically than ever before and risk evaluations play an important part. The area of the country that has to be protected is divided into 53 separate regions, each of which is surrounded by dunes, dikes, dams, sluices, etc. If one area is flooded, the others are still protected independently. For each region a maximum acceptable failure probability is chosen, say for example one flood per 1250 years. This figure depends on the economic importance of the region and the number of inhabitants. The failure probability is translated into heights of the dikes, strengths of the dams, etc. Statistical information about sea levels, water levels of the rivers, power of storms, etc. is incorporated in the model.

Important for our subject is that the figures are not valid from now to eternity. The expert said that every five years a new evaluation is conducted. So the data about the water levels of the last few years are also taken into account in the statistical calculations, as well as new insights about the technical characteristics of the artificial flood defence systems. This may lead to the conclusion that in maintaining the chosen failure probability in light of the new information, the dikes should be made higher. The expert made clear that this is not a simple straightforward process:

“Failure mechanisms include not only overflow as the result of a water level that is too high, but also the collapse of a dike, sinking at weak spots, the failure of hydraulic systems, the failure of the layers covering a dike. All these failure mechanisms should be taken into account in the statistical analysis. Furthermore the different failure processes are not independent. The dependencies must be specified as correlation parameters. There are rather large uncertainties in these parameters.” (interview U.Viehoff)

Also the characteristics of flood defense systems are not constant over time. The degradation process is different for each system.

“The problem is that each system is unique. There exists only one ‘Van Brienenoord’ bridge; each dike is different. Therefore the degradation of each structure will develop differently. Therefore too little information is available to predict the future of such a structure. A purely statistical analysis therefore is often insufficient. I dealt with the question to what extent the opinions of experts can be used to compensate for the lack of statistical information. Experts are asked to give an estimate for the parameters that are relevant for the degradation of the structure. The opinions of experts give the a priori information about the structure at hand. By observing the degradation process of the structure additional information is supplied and with this the a priori information is changed with the help of Bayesian statistics.” (interview U.Viehoff)

Remembering what the geologist Mr. A. Brouwer said about the large site-specific differences for possible disposal places of nuclear waste, we see that we have an analogous situation here. I asked Mr. Viehoff if it is possible to construct a dike that should last a thousand years without monitoring and repairing. He answered ironically:

“That dike should be made very high. I think that dike should be made ridiculously high…” (interview U.Viehoff)

Mr. Viehoff made clear that our knowledge of risky systems and our dealing with these systems are evolving processes where observations and the continuous increase of new empirical information is an essential part. From the start one cannot have full knowledge of the risks involved. In the course of time our experience with the actual system provides us with more information. In this process Bayesian statistics are used. One form of the equation of Bayes reads as follows:

            P(An|B) = P(An) [P(B|An) / P(B)]

The left-hand side of the equation represents the conditional probability of an event An happening to the system, given that the empirical evidence B is known. P(An|B) is called the posterior probability of An. The prior probability of An before B was known is represented by P(An). The second factor on the right-hand side of the equation represents the relative change in the probability of An when B becomes known. The Bayes equation reflects our changing knowledge about the system. An iterative process is possible, taking into account new empirical information again and again. It is supposed that in this way our knowledge of the system, represented by the set of subjective probabilities P(An) becomes more and more reliable.

This process only works when the system under study is continuously monitored, like is done with the flood protection systems as Mr. Viehoff explained. For the risks of failure of a nuclear waste repository this would be the same. From the Bayesian viewpoint a repository should be monitored all the time it is functioning. During this process our knowledge of the repository gradually grows and becomes more reliable.

Discussing Bayesian statistics N.J. McCormick[12] makes an important observation. He observes that the whole analysis is subjected to the restrictions of hypotheses that are assumed for the system under study. He mentions that some authors insist to indicate the conditional character of the probabilities with respect to these hypotheses or assumptions H about the system. P(An) should be read as P(An|H), P(An|B) as P(An|BH), etc.

“The use of such a convention does serve to remind the risk analyst to check that the operating environment for the device is the same as that for which the failure probability data have been generated.”[13]

What kind of hypotheses does McCormick mean with the symbol H? He obviously does not mean statements that can easily be tested empirically, because these are covered in the empirical evidence B. From the citation we see that McCormick recognizes a difference between the system in reality (the operating environment) and the set of conceptual models we have made for the system (that for which the failure probability data have been generated). The hypotheses H concern not the system in reality, but the models.

To understand this it is important to say a few words about the role of conceptual models in natural science. In his study “The Philosophy of Physics” Roberto Torretti[14] makes clear that the history of physics has shown that the development of conceptual models is not a straightforward process. It is a feedback process. On the one hand empirical results lead to theories but on the other hand often theory is needed to design the experiments and to interpret the experimental results. He shows that for a Bayesian analysis this is true as well. The empirical evidence B is interpreted on the background of a set of conceptual models. To say that a growing stock of empirical evidence leads to a corresponding growing knowledge of the object is too simple a picture. It is possible that at a certain moment we conclude that our models do not give a satisfactory picture of the object and we have to change them. In other words, we have to change the hypotheses H. The empirical evidence B is then seen in a new light and another interpretation should be given.

“… the Bayesian school, for all its mathematical sophistication, remains committed to the feckless assumption that concepts and meanings are fixed and that a rational agent will not be moved by empirical evidence to see things in a fundamentally different way.”[15]

Apart from a lack of empirical evidence also our conceptual models are a source of error and this aspect can easily be overlooked. Ewing et al.[16] call this second class conceptual uncertainties. The authors make a clear distinction between parametric uncertainty and model uncertainty. The determination of parameter values is more straightforward then the choice of the correct model. Both uncertainties affect the reliability of the results, but the second class of uncertainties is more difficult to grasp or to quantify. (Remember that in the introduction of this paper a report of the Dutch Health Counsel was mentioned where exactly this distinction between different uncertainties was emphasized.)

As an example in the PROSA report assumptions of both classes can be found. We already saw that assumptions are made about the effects of radiation damage on a repository. Nowadays there is evidence that these effects could very well be more severe than assumed in the PROSA report[17][18]. These assumptions are both of parametric nature and conceptual nature. The model to describe the process of radiation damage formation is still being developed[19]. An assumption of an even more conceptual nature is to view the repository as a three-barrier system, where each barrier can exist in one of two possible states, present or bypassed. This is a simplification of the real situation (although understandable from a practical point of view) with the result that the operating environment is different from that for which the calculations are performed. From the viewpoint of Torretti each model is to some extent a simplification of reality and this suggests that conceptual uncertainties cannot be avoided.[20]

All these assumptions limit the reliability of a risk assessment. With this in mind it is advisable that a risk study should contain a reliability analysis, to evaluate the effects of the assumptions (parametric and conceptual) on the final results. The PROSA report only explains how it deals with parametric uncertainties. For parameters whose values are not known probability distributions are taken. But the subject of conceptual uncertainties is not discussed at all.

In this section we saw that risk evaluations are limited in their reliability. Assumptions and uncertainties play an important role. Especially the conceptual uncertainties are difficult to grasp and often have an unknown effect on the reliability of the results. The usual way to deal in practice with these uncertain situations is to monitor the risky system. This monitoring process improves our knowledge about the system, although complete knowledge cannot be achieved. The monitoring process makes it possible that when something goes wrong we can intervene. What does this mean for disposal of nuclear waste? Because of the many uncertainties involved it can easily be argued that we should monitor the repository as long as the waste is hazardous. But is this possible? And what can we do when something goes wrong?

In connection with these questions it is interesting to mention that in 2008 reports appeared that in the Asse II mine in Germany brine was found that was slightly contaminated with radio nuclides[21]. In this salt mine radioactive waste was stored between 1967 and 1978. Between 1995 and 2004 the caves with the waste were filled with salt and can no longer be entered. The contamination is probably caused by corrosion of the waste containers as a result of water intrusion[22]. Containers were used that were not suitable for long-term storage. This example makes clear that even very shortly after waste storage began, processes took place that were not expected.

3.4. Risk and retrievability

As a reaction to the discussion on the safety of underground disposal of hazardous waste the Dutch minister of environmental protection put forward the additional criterion of retrievability in 1993. If something goes wrong in the underground we can recover the waste. Can this criterion be an answer to the uncertainties, can it provide an extra safety margin? I presented this question to Mrs. Terbeek.

“But what then? If we make retrievability a criterion, then we must have an alternative when we get it back. Now we want to bury the waste underground, because we evaluate that it is not safe enough to store it above ground. But when we retrieve it from the underground it still is not safe enough above ground! Then we have a problem, because we have no safety margin anymore. If the risk above ground is comparable to the risk underground, it could be a safety margin, but if the risk above ground is much larger, then it is no safety margin. To make it more precisely: it is important to know what situation is acceptable. Society accepts all kinds of risks, voluntary and non-voluntary. Risk management is based on the knowledge of what risks are accepted by society. The standards are made on the basis of this knowledge. We accept a non-voluntary risk of 10-6 or a voluntary one of 10-4. If aboveground storage of nuclear waste has a risk of 10-6 and underground storage a risk of 10-8, then retrievability may be an alternative, because the risk is comparable to what we find acceptable. But if we know beforehand that aboveground storage has a risk that is not acceptable, it is not useful to make this proposal. Maybe it is possible to show that by taking all kinds of measures the risk can be made acceptable, but then we must carefully check the costs. If they are too high, aboveground storage is not realistic and it is not an alternative to underground storage.” (interview S.Terbeek)

Are there ideas about the risk of aboveground storage? Mr. Van Dijk has a very definite opinion of this.

“For storage of nuclear waste we think of long periods, say 100.000 years. In this period many geological processes can take place on the surface of the earth. The surface is the working floor of nature. As result of glacial cycles the sea level may sink 120 meters or rise 60 meters. Ice may roll over our country leaving nothing standing upright. Those are natural forces over which we have absolutely no control. Therefore we say that this working floor of nature is not the proper place to build a storage site for nuclear waste. I do not say we should store it underground, but I like more to say that there is a scientific responsibility to investigate the possibility of underground storage. That is the way I like to look at it. Of course there are risks connected with underground storage, but aboveground storage is in all cases a catastrophic matter. Another point is that a building for aboveground storage has a lifetime of only 200 years. After every such period it should be rebuilt again. It remains to be seen if human society is able economically, politically and ethically, to build a new one. The question is when our society can no longer fulfill her duties for maintenance. This is the case when society is degenerating for whatever reason. In such a crisis situation for society it is most unfortunate when at that time these hazardous materials are released into the environment. We must prevent that this may happen in such a weak period for our society.” (interview C.van Dijk)

So Mr. Van Dijk foresees two sources of risk for aboveground storage of nuclear waste. The first one is that natural processes are more intense above ground than in the deep underground. The second risk factor is the possible incapability of our society to maintain the storage building.

'Once waste is emplaced underground, it is very unlikely it would ever be removed again, not only for technical reasons, but also for political reasons'

For how long a time is it possible to retrieve the waste from underground?

“It is not possible to maintain the retrievability for the whole period that the waste exists. No sane man will claim that one can retrieve the waste after one million years. Retrievability has a time limit. This is a few hundred years. This is a fact from mining. The criteria for Isolation, Managing and Control were set up twenty years ago aimed at aboveground storage. Above ground we can manage and control, because it is always available. These criteria put the emphasis upon societal capacity. If we think about geological storage we do not think anymore in terms of societal capacity, we think in terms of geological processes and very long time scales. When we choose this way we can manage and control during a certain period, but not for the whole lifetime of the storage facility. The managing and control of man comes to an end and nature takes over.” (interview C.van Dijk)

The environmentalist Mr. I. Jacobs has a different wish about the duration of retrievability.

“Retrievability is forever! All the time the waste is there we must monitor and control it. The scenario as we see it is as follows. The first hundred years the waste is stored in a building above ground. For the period hereafter underground storage seems to be the best option. Anyhow, we must account for the strangest situations. Imagine if we had had a storage facility above ground in Bosnia! For the underground period we need a building underground with all the necessary measuring instruments that have to be kept working all the time. A problem is however that measuring instruments do not work longer than a hundred years…. The best thing would be that the storage building could be accessed at all times. At this moment we do not know how and if this is possible.” (interview I.Jabobs)

So we see that there are various difficulties with the retrievability concept. First of all it probably does not raise the level of safety of the disposal strategy, because recovering the waste means aboveground storage and this is seen as risky business indeed. Furthermore it is by no means clear if retrievability is realizable for very long periods of time. In the opinion of Mr. Van Dijk retrievable storage is only possible for about two hundred years. After this time the mine is closed and “nature takes over”. In this conception of retrievability we are in fact talking about delayed permanent disposal.

In these interviews the reasons for retrievability are seen as the possibility to take the waste back when something goes wrong underground and also to some extent to verify our theories about the long-time behaviour of the storage location and the waste.

In the CORA report, that was published a few years after these interviews took place, some other advantages of retrievability are mentioned. One of them is to be able to get the waste back when in the future we may find ways to reduce the hazard of the waste. But in the CORA report retrievability is essentially seen as a first stage of permanent disposal. After some time (a few hundred years) the mine is closed and the waste can no longer be returned to the surface even if desired.

4. Conclusions

In this paper we have explored various aspects of the reliability of risk analysis for geologic disposal of nuclear waste. In our discussion of the radiological risk criterion we saw the danger of giving a too absolute interpretation of the risk figures. Because of the many uncertainties involved it is not possible to justify the use of the risk figures for more than comparison of the risks of different disposal concepts.

In the continuation of the paper these uncertainties were further explored. The extremely long time scales involved are an important source of uncertainty. Some authors insist that the usual research methods of natural science are not expected to give reliable results at these time scales so that new methods should be developed.

In discussing the relationship between models and empirical evidence we entered into the subject of assumptions. Two classes of assumptions were distinguished, parametrical and conceptual. Especially the second class is difficult to grasp and handle. When in a reliability analysis only the parametric assumptions are discussed, an incomplete evaluation of the reliability of the results is obtained. It is argued that the conceptual uncertainties can never be avoided completely. They are part of the process of obtaining knowledge of the external world. To deal with these uncertainties in practice, risky systems are monitored. For a nuclear waste repository however, this leads to difficulties that can probably not be overcome because of the extremely long timescales involved. Also the retrievability concept is found not to be a solution if it is only seen as a first phase of permanent disposal.

Given the results, that risk evaluations of the geologic disposal of nuclear waste have limited reliability and that monitoring of the site during a long enough period is problematic, we have to put a question mark behind the very concept of permanent disposal of nuclear waste in the deep underground.

But what are the alternatives? In my opinion the first thing to do is to stop the production of nuclear waste as soon as possible simply because we have no sound solution for it. The best thing would be to end the use of nuclear fission for the production of electricity.

If that would be done, we still have a large amount of waste to be dealt with. I think we should postpone the decision for a permanent solution because we do not yet know what is the safest option. As one of the interviewed experts said, it is too early to make a definite choice now. At this moment we can better focus on interim solutions, relatively safe storage of the waste for the next decades. In the United States environmental organisations support the concept of hardened on-site storage (HOSS)[23]. In this concept irradiated fuel is stored as safely as possible as close to the site of generation as possible. Because it is not a permanent solution the HOSS facilities should not be constructed deep underground. The facilities are monitored to detect problems as soon as possible. The waste is retrievable. In the Netherlands in fact there is also an interim storage facility near the Borssele nuclear power plant. The nuclear waste is supposed to stay there for at least hundred years.

'illusions that someday somehow a magic solution for nuclear waste will be found, just lends support to the nuclear establishment’s push to just keeping operating nuclear reactors and making more waste, regardless of the lack of radioactive waste solutions'

The most ideal and safe long-term solution would be to transform the waste into non-hazardous matter. But at this moment it is not clear if this ever can be done with safe and practical methods. Some steps in the direction of ‘transmutation’ have been taken, but as it is seen now this technique leads to new dangers, risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and also high costs. Moreover it still requires a geological repository for the remaining wastes. In a few decades we might have a better view on the best permanent solution for the nuclear waste problem. This might be underground storage but it also might be something else. But the situation now is that we do not know a safe solution, so it is common sense to stop the production of nuclear waste to make the danger for future generations not greater than it already is.


Expected start of disposal


After 2017










After 2025






After 2035






Source: NEA 2008

Source and contact: Wim Slooten. After his study physics he became interested in the nuclear waste problem. This artice is the result of research in this field under supervision of prof. dr. H.W. den Hartog of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.


The author acknowledges the discussions with Prof. Dr. H.W. den Hartog of the State University of Groningen, The Netherlands, on the subject of the geological disposal of nuclear waste, with Prof. Dr. R.E. Chaves of the institute LCM, Utrecht, The Netherlands, on the interdisciplinary aspects of this study and with Dr. R. Franke on the interview method. Furthermore he is very thankful to the experts who were willing to give their opinions about the subject of nuclear waste disposal in the interviews. He thanks Kevin Kamps (Beyond Nuclear) for reading the manuscript and giving valuable reactions.


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20- A very early but interesting discussion of this problem is given by the German philosopher Hans Vaihinger in his book The Philosophy of ‘As If’: a system of the theoretical, practical and religious fiction of mankind (London, 1965, originally 1913). Here he introduces the concept “fiction” for an assumption that is in fact untrue, but is unavoidable to understand reality. The fiction simplifies the multidimensional reality in order to make it understandable for our mind. Vaihinger’s fictions are comparable to the conceptual hypotheses or uncertainties discussed in this paper.

21- Helmholtz Zentrum München, Cäsium-137-Konzentration in Salzlösungen der Schachtanlage Asse seit langem bekannt und gemeldet,, Montag 16. Juni 2008.

22- Helmholtz Zentrum München, Herkunft der radioaktiven Stoffe vor der Kammer 12 der 750-m-Sohle,, Donnerstag 21. August 2008.

23- See: